ALBANY -- A dramatic underwater rescued capped a five-car chain reaction accident on Highway 20 east of Albany Tuesday afternoon.
A truck hauling hay didn’t see traffic stopped for road construction. The Dodge pickup truck driven by John Olson, 21, of Sisters, tried to stop but plowed into the rear of a Chevy pickup.
The Chevy was plummeted forward, hitting another vehicle before splashing and sinking into a roadside pond. As the pickup sunk under, Troy Elverfeld, 47, an Oregon Department of Transportation worker, grabbed a metal rod from a backhoe and jumped into the pond.
Elverfeld told Oregon State Police investigators he could see the driver, 56-year-old Dean Stilwell of Sweet Home, inside the truck with the windows rolled up.
Elverfeld bashed out the driver’s side window with the rod, and tried twice but failed to pull Stilwell out. His third attempt finally worked. He pulled the dazed man free of the vehicle and got him to the surface.
"I just jumped in with one boot on and one boot off and with this tool and swam over to the vehicle,” Elverfeld said. "Once I got a hole finally broke in it, I was able to just kind of pull all the glass away and make sure I have a clear area to pull him out."
He said all he remembered was slamming on his brakes, and seeing a truck come up behind him, then waking up in the ambulance.
Elverfeld had to dive under himself, to rescue Stilwell.
"I just held my breath and went down and felt for him, and there he was, I had to come up for air," he said. "It’s just a job that I did to get the person to safety, that’s all. I'm just glad that he’s alive.”
Stilwell suffered a concussion but was otherwise okay.
A total of five people were transported to the hospital but none were seriously injured.
Olson was cited for careless driving.
KGW Reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report