Vehicle crashes into canal in Fredericksburg
UPDATE: Fall Hill Avenue reopened at 1:15 p.m. after being closed for over three hours.
Fall Hill Avenue was closed in both directions this morning as emergency workers tried to assist an elderly mother and daughter whose vehicle crashed into the City Canal in Fredericksburg.
City police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe said a vehicle carrying a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 80s struck a guardrail in the 3200 block of Fall Hill about 10:05 a.m. Friday and went into the canal. The younger woman was able to call 911.
Bledsoe said the water is relatively shallow at that point so there was no immediate danger of drowning.
Both women have been rescued and are on the way to Mary Washington Hospital to be checked out. Each was responsive and talking at the scene.
Police said the car was heading from the Bragg Hill area toward the Canal Bridge at about 40 mph when it came upon cars that had stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the road. It then went off the road, hit the guardrail and crashed into the canal, police said.
Authorities expected the roadway to remain closed until about 12:30 as they worked to get the car out of the canal.
However, Sgt. Barry Taylor with the Fredericksburg police said on the scene that the city needs to inspect the bridge to ensure it is safe for motorists to use.
Ruben Martinez, Travis Lontz, and wife Tara Lontz were in the crosswalk, leading a group of children from Lighthouse Academy on a hike, when the accident occurred.
Travis jumped into the canal when they saw the car go in.
“They were coming down the hill and didn’t want to hit the cars paused for pedestrians, so she swerved and went through the guard rail,” he said.
Lontz, a 40-year-old designer, said that the car was smoking when he went into the canal to assist the passengers.
“I was trying to keep them calm and still until professionals arrived,” he said.
Tara Lontz, 40 and a history teacher at Lighthouse Academy, and Martinez helped direct traffic until police and fire officials arrived on the scene.
Martinez is on furlough from the Department of Labor. Otherwise, he would have been at work on a Friday morning.
Passers-by stopped on the bridge over the canal across from the Virginia Outdoor Center.
Shannon Garcia, 42 who works for Sport and Health, walks with a group there twice a week and said there has never been so much excitement during the walks.
“It’s terrible,” she said. “We’ve never seen anything like this here. I hope everyone is alright.”
- KEITH EPPS and LINDLEY ESTES