MONTEREY — As he backed his trailer down the boat ramp after a leisurely cruise on Lake Garfield on Friday afternoon, his foot slipped and hit the accelerator.
Next thing that Doug McTavish knew, his Kia Sportage hatchback was nearly underwater — and he was inside.
Joanne Bell, his wife of 40 years, had been standing near the ramp when the accident happened. She jumped in and pulled her husband out through the window.
"As soon as it hit the water, it filled right up," said Bell, 77, who appeared shaken and relieved. "So, I rescued my husband."
The couple from Monterey escaped the ordeal uninjured.
While medics looked over McTavish, 75, while wrapped in a wool blanket at Lake Garfield Beach, Bell explained that the couple had opened the hatchback so she could guide her husband as he backed up the trailer to pick up the boat. And it was the open hatchback that caused the car to fill so quickly.
The accident occurred about 4:30 p.m.
One moment a "lovely cruise to visit neighbors," Bell said. And the next, only the hatch door of the car was visible.
"We spent an hour on the lake," she said. "It was a beautiful day we had."
Bell was not humorless in her recollection.
She also said police and firefighters appeared at her side in what seemed like seconds.
One was Bob Fedell, a New Marlborough firefighter who just happened to be down the street when he heard the call and went running over.
"By the time I got there, they were already out of the water," he said.
Monterey Police Sgt. Brian Fahey was on hand and had just called the towing company.
"They said they could get it out," Fahey said of the car and trailer, which also was submerged.
As the warm autumnal evening descended, the tow truck arrived and the ambulance left. Boats glided past the hatch of the submerged vehicle, and children played on the beach.
McTavish, still wet and a little shaken, said he felt fine, except for one thing.
"I'm just a little embarrassed," he said.
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.