Car's plunge into river a 'wake-up call,' driver says
DALTON — An 81-year-old Pittsfield woman is doing well— and planning not to drive for now — after being rescued by public safety workers when her car plunged into the Housatonic River in Dalton.
Eileen Murphy said she was treated Saturday at Berkshire Medical Center and released after the mishap on Main Street, which brought quick action from two off-duty firefighters. Murphy's car went into the river after sideswiping a vehicle driven by David Robillard, 62, of Lanesborough. Robillard, the sole passenger in the other vehicle, did not require medical attention, Dalton police said.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, according to Dalton Police Officer Joseph Kennedy. No charges have been filed, but police have sent a letter to the Registry of Motor Vehicles recommending that Murphy's driver's license be revoked.
In a telephone interview Sunday, Murphy referred to the incident as a "wake-up call" and said she was "not planning on driving anywhere right now."
According to Kennedy, Murphy was attempting to make a U-turn in her red 2015 Nissan sedan in Main Street's eastbound lane at 1 p.m. Saturday when she sideswiped a 2019 Toyota SUV driven by Robillard that was traveling in the same direction. Murphy said she had missed the turn off Main Street onto Route 9 then pulled into the driveway of a nearby Crane Currency facility so she could turn around. She said she did not see Robillard's vehicle as she attempted the maneuver.
"I thought I could make a U-turn," she said. "Apparently, that wasn't the case."
When the accident occurred the airbag in the woman's vehicle deployed. Police believe she may have panicked and hit the accelerator after the vehicles collided near the Depot Street bridge. Murphy's car then traveled across Main Street's east and west lanes, jumped the curb, traveled through the front yard of a residence at 799 Main St., and then down an embankment, Kennedy said. At the bottom of the embankment the ground levels off like a "mini-ramp," according to Kennedy, and that launched the car 25-feet into the middle of the river.
According to Kennedy, two off-duty Dalton volunteer firefighters who were in the area helped him remove Murphy from her car as it began to sink. The three men did a quick medical evaluation of the woman through the driver's-side window, which had been left open. They decided to remove her from the vehicle through the window because it was beginning to sink and the water was up to her neck. They originally tried to open the driver's side door and take her out, but that caused the vehicle to fill up with water, he said. Murphy unhooked her seat belt so the men could remove her from the car.
"She was shook up and definitely confused," when the three men removed her from the car, Kennedy said. "I spoke with her and she said she didn't lose consciousness and remembered the whole thing."
"Those guys were awesome," Kennedy said, referring to the two firefighters who helped him. "I wouldn't have been able to do it (without them)."
Murphy also thanked her rescuers.
"I thought it was great," she said. "I don't even know who they are."
Murphy's Nissan was removed from the river with a crane by Village Towing.
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