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Eagan police and fire rescue submerged driver with help from bystanders

First responders had to make split-second decisions that saved a man's live on Monday afternoon.

EAGAN, Minn. — Bill Henk had just finished his lunch break Monday when he saw a peculiar and frightening sight unfold on Denmark Avenue near a busy commercial strip.

A driver had pulled into traffic, slammed on the gas, and plunged his car down a hill into a pond.

“All I could see was his car, the front end, sitting down in the pond,” said Henk, a City of Eagan code enforcement worker. “I knew he needed help. I was the only one there.”

After calling 911, Henk rushed down the hill, waded into the water and tried to pull the car to shore. But there was only so much he could do.

Help was on the way.

“Right when I heard those sirens,” Henk said, “it was a huge relief.”

Eagan Police Officer Sean Farnham was among the first to respond. He took off his belt to free himself of extra equipment weight and headed straight for the car in the pond.

“As I’m coming to the call, I’m visualizing what I need to do,” Farnham said. “I immediately went up to the driver’s door, to see if I could communicate with the driver at all. Unfortunately, we couldn’t.”

It appeared the man had suffered a seizure, leaving him completely unresponsive.                                                     

“Doors are locked. Windows all rolled up. We don’t have a lot of options at that point,” Farnham said.

So, the officers decided to smash open the car windows with the help of a firefighter, hoping to spring the man loose as water rushed higher and higher toward the top of his vehicle.

Officer Luke Nelson used a knife-like tool to smash the glass.

“That was scary. Because we knew what was going to happen,” Nelson said. “You have moments before that car went down.”

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The maneuver worked, and first responders pulled the man to safety.

He’s going to be OK, police said, after a short stay at a local hospital.  

It was truly a team effort to save his life, thanks to police, fire, a city employee and other bystanders.

“This was everyone firing on all cylinders,” Nelson said.

It’s the kind of happy ending that first responders don’t always see.

“We do everything we can in a lot of situations and sometimes the deck is just stacked too far against you. This one we got here just in the nick of time. The moment was just right,” Nelson said. “It was a good feeling to be a part of it.”

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