RICHMOND -- Rescue crews saved a man who drove his vehicle into a retention pond at a landfill in North Richmond on Tuesday, authorities said.

The car was about 6 feet deep when Contra Costa Sheriff's Office deputies arrived first at the pond on Parr Boulevard at the West Contra Costa Sanitary Landfill around 3:05 p.m., Sheriff's Office spokesman Jimmy Lee said. Inside it, an elderly man, estimated to be in his 70s, was trapped in an air pocket inside the car near the driver's seat, Battalion Chief Lon Goetsch of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said.

"He was praying and seemed resigned to the fact that he was not going to make it," Sheriff's deputy Felipe Monroe, the first deputy on scene, said of the driver. "He was somewhat incoherent."

Fire crews work to reach a man stuck in a submerged vehicle after he drove the car into a pond at a North Richmond landfill on Tuesday.
Fire crews work to reach a man stuck in a submerged vehicle after he drove the car into a pond at a North Richmond landfill on Tuesday.

Monroe said he secured the car at a bumper with a rope and that fire crews added a winch cable to keep it from sinking any deeper. Monroe said he then broke through the back window of the car with a crow bar and, along with other rescuers, pulled the man to safety over the back seat and through the same window.

"What happens is that when a car is submerged that far, it almost becomes buoyant, then it sinks," Goetsch said. "So we were able to use the cable to keep it from going down any more. He was fortunate."

The man, whose identity was not released, was taken by ambulance to Doctor's Medical Center San Pablo. An update on his condition was not immediately available, but Goetsch said the man was "conscious, alert and in no obvious distress" when he was placed in the ambulance.

Investigators are still trying to determine why the man was on the property, but early clues indicate the man was driving at a high speed when he went through the gates, and it appears he didn't slow down, Goetsch said. The man lost control after speeding down a steep hill, Goetsch said.

"We don't know if maybe he had a reaction to medication or what may have occurred," Monroe said. "But he was lucky."

Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.