A Richmond woman died one day after first responders pulled her from a submerged car in Middlefork Reservoir.
Investigators aren’t sure why Kathy Tiemann drove into the reservoir late Wednesday night, but they said it appears to be a tragic accident. It’s a tragedy they now hope will prevent similar deaths.
Tiemann told the 911 dipatcher that her car was beginning to go under and she couldn’t get out.
"It's kind of frustrating, knowing you're trying to get help to somebody and all you can use is your voice," Koorsen said.
Though Tiemann ultimately didn’t survive, Koorsen said dispatchers in Richmond have been trained to focus on helping people find a way out, not to wait for rescue teams or to focus too much time on location.
"The most important thing is to get that person and the occupants of the vehicle out of that vehicle through the window, not the door, through the window and get on top of the car," Koorsen said.
Tiemann couldn’t roll down her electric windows, so the dispatcher tried to get her to pull her rearview mirror off her windshield and use it to break her driver’s side window.
"We could hear her doing that in the background,” Koorsen said. “Then we finally lost contact with her after she had gotten into the back seat. She said she was running out of space."
Richmond firefighters were on the scene within minutes and they located the car in the water and immediately jumped in. They were able to open a door, but the water had trapped Tiemann in another part of the vehicle and they had to use S.C.U.B.A. tanks before they could get her out.
Tiemann was rushed to an Indianapolis hospital on a respirator where she later died. Despite the heroic rescue attempt, Koorsen said her best, and only chance of survival came before those rescue teams even arrived.
"I don't know how many minutes the call lasted but there was certainly time,” Koorsen said, “had she gotten the window down, plenty of time for her to have gotten out of the vehicle. It's just that that window would not come down."
The 911 dispatcher in Richmond relied on new water immersion training techniques developed right here Indiana.
A local woman helped spur the new training, after taking up the cause following the death of her grandson in a similar accident.
Trey Kidwell, 17, died after mistakenly driving into Brookville Lake near Centerville five years ago. Ever since, Mary Kay Kidwell has worked with Indiana State in order to educate the public and change how dispatchers deal with vehicle immersion calls.
Kidwell emphasizes coaching people out of the car immediately, instead of spending too much time asking for location or waiting for first responders.
"The people who don't make it out are the ones who either can't get their windows open, don't have a tool, or don't know what to do,” Kidwell said. “We've just got to educate everybody."
Kidwell recently co-wrote an instructional article with Detective Bob May of the Indiana State Police on how best to respond to immersion accidents, and they will also help teach a workshop during the upcoming national 911 dispatcher's conference.
Emergency personnel working to educate public about immersion accidents