Strangers rush into icy pond to save driver from death during snowstorm

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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (CBS6)— A ride home during Monday’s snow storm turned into a horrifying experience for one Chesterfield woman. Panic set in for Joyce Byrd who became trapped inside her car after she slid into a retention pond off of LeGordon Drive.

“The only thing I could do as that car went down was to call on God,” Byrd said.

She told CBS 6 News it all started when she hit an icy patch on LeGordon Drive and slid across the road. She said she swerved to miss a brick sign, but a car was coming so she steered away from that car. Byrd then ran through a fence and went airborne and finally landed in the icy pond.

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“It was coming in so fast. I said ‘oh my God;’ the water got all the way up to my chin,” Byrd explained.

She tried for her cellphone, but it floated away. Then, Byrd heard voices. The water kept rising as three good Samaritans and a Chesterfield police officer scrambled to save her.

“He said you’ll be alright,” Byrd recalled.

One of the strangers who stopped to help is an emergency room doctor. With the help of Officer John Parris, Dr. Matthew Bartholomew pulled Byrd to safety through her back window.

“All I want to do is say thank you to whoever did this,” Byrd said. “Maybe one day I’ll get to meet them.”

“I said God must have sent somebody there to me because that was a blessing,” she added.” I am going to give honor to God,” Byrd explained.

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The woman’s family reached out to CBS 6 News for help in locating the good Samaritans who stopped to help her that day.

Chesterfield Police connected us with Dr. Bartholomew and Officer Parris.

“I realized she needed help,” Dr. Bartholomew said. “She wasn’t going to get to us so we had to get to her.”

He explained that he came upon the crash site as he was heading to fill up his wife’s car with gas.

He spotted two men climbing through a fence to get to the woman’s car what was sinking quickly in the icy retention pond. Bartholomew didn’t hesitate to slip out of some of his clothing and jump into the water to help.

He said the water was very murky and he wasn’t able to see Byrd. When he got to the car, he attempted to smash her window with a rock. When that didn’t work, he tried to open her door. When he got it open, he said the woman was not in her seat.

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Byrd says she doesn’t remember how she wound up in the back of her Grand Prix, but she did. That’s where she was when Bartholomew smashed the window with Officer Parris’ nightstick. As he pulled her through the window with one hand, he held onto the officer’s rescue rope.

Parris was able to reel them in and emergency crews quickly got her into the ambulance and tried to warm Byrd up.

Byrd was taken to Johnston-Willis hospital, where she received several stitches in her hand. Byrd said she’s thankful that was the extent of her injuries.

She hopes to one day meet Dr. Bartholomew, and her other rescuers, face to face so she and her family can thank him for his heroic efforts. He and Officer Parris said they’re just glad they could be in the right place at the right time.

“I think it speaks to how most people are,” Parris said. “They want to help and they do when they see an opportunity, so I’m not surprised.”

Dr. Bartholomew said he’s glad that the two other men who were first on the scene were there to assist them.

“I could have easily gone home and not gotten gas that day, so I’m in awe of how God works,” Bartholomew said. “He put me there for a reason and I was able to be his tool. I’m grateful and thankful to God for that.”

The doctor, whose practice is at St. Francis Medical Center, is married with three children.

When asked why he didn’t hesitate to jump in, Bartholomew said he would like to think that someone else would help if it happened to his family. As for reconnecting with Byrd, the doctor said he’s eager to see her again. He said he’s just glad that she’s doing okay.

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