Va. man recounts rescue of 3 from car wreck in icy pond
He heard the crash behind his house, waded into the dark water and saved two kids and their father while calling for help from neighbors
SUFFOLK, Va. — Josh West was reading a bedtime story to his daughter when he heard a loud bang.
He thought it was a trash can hitting the side of his Burbage Grant house. When he saw there was no wind, he feared a burglar was trying to break in.
It was worse.
A Suffolk family had crashed a car into the icy retention pond behind West's home.
Before he knew it, the 39-year-old financial planner was wading into the freezing water wearing his pajamas, a fleece jacket and old running shoes.
"I didn't have a choice. I had to go," West said Friday, recalling how he pulled 25-year-old London Dubois and his two young children from the water Tuesday. "You have to do what you have to do."
The children's mother, 23-year-old Latasha Dubois, was not so fortunate.
West couldn't find her in the pitch-black water. Police divers located her body more than 90 minutes after the crash. She was pronounced dead at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth.
West said he didn't know how serious it was when he ran out and saw the Nissan in the pond, which is 4 to 5 feet deep. He didn't think anyone was injured.
Then he heard London Dubois say he was trapped and his wife and children were somewhere in the water.
"I don't know where they are," Dubois said, according to West.
The amateur triathlete immediately waded into the water. He made out a slight silhouette about 30 feet out.
"I was hoping it wasn't what it was," West said.
It was. Dubois' 3-year-old son was floating facedown in the water.
"I thought, 'Oh my God,' " West said.
He picked up the boy and headed for shore, only to spot another silhouette about 15 feet away. It was the 2-year-old daughter, also facedown and also unresponsive.
West said he threw the boy, now partly conscious, over his left shoulder and picked up the girl with his right arm.
He made it to shore, losing a shoe in the process, and put the children on the ground. He started chest compressions on the girl while screaming for help.
West was in luck. His neighbor, an Air Force doctor, was out walking his dog. West's wife, Katie, also ran over to assist.
West - numb from the waist down - handed the girl off to the neighbor, Will Brooks, who continued CPR. West then returned to the water to search for the mother. He said he looked inside the car and out, in the back seat and the front.
"I looked everywhere," he said. "I couldn't see anything."
West turned his attention to London Dubois, who was stuck neck deep in the water under part of the car. He estimated the man had been in the pond for at least seven minutes by then.
"I knew I had to get him out," he said.
West managed to free London and get him to shore with the help of another neighbor, who had heard the commotion and come outside.
"By that time, I couldn't feel anything," West said.
He had to give up the search. The water was too dark and too cold, he said.
"What Josh did was heroic," said Brooks, a former emergency medical technician who is an emergency room physician at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. "He tries to downplay it... but what he did was really awesome. He saved their lives."
Diana Klink, a city spokeswoman, seconded that.
"Had he not entered those frigid waters in the dark to come to the aid of people he didn't even know, an entire family could have lost their lives," she said, commending his "brave, selfless actions."
It remained unclear what caused the 8 p.m. wreck on Respass Beach Road, near Northern Shores Elementary School. Klink said police were investigating why London Dubois drove off the road, through a hedge and into the pond.
West credited God with guiding him through the harrowing rescue.
"None of this was coincidence," he said, noting his wife didn't hear the crash because she was in a different part of the house.
West and his family have met with Dubois and his family since the wreck.
He thinks they will stay close.
"My wife and I are very excited to see those kids grow up," West said, hoping his own children, ages 4 and 6, can become friends with them.
"They are such a wonderful, loving family. It took two seconds to see that."