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Elderly Woman Dies After Being Rescued From Pond

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Car Pulled Out Of Pond In Phoenix, Ill.

A Phoenix police officer rescued a woman from this car after it plunged into a pond in the south suburb on April 1, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

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PHOENIX, Ill. (STMW) – An elderly woman who was rescued Friday after her car plunged into a deep retention pond has died.

Helen Wallace, of the 600 block of East 153rd Street in Phoenix, was pronounced dead at 2:10 p.m. Saturday at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, according to a representative of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The 87-year-old Wallace had been rescued from her car by emergency responders, including a south suburban police sergeant who jumped into the icy water and broke the car window.

Wallace had been behind the wheel of an older model 4-door Buick eastbound on 153rd Street when she lost control of the car near 9th Avenue near the Phoenix-South Holland border about 2 p.m., according to Phoenix Police Chief Mel Davis.

She was brought to the hospital in critical condition after the rescue.

“I just got the news that she was revived and she does have a pulse now,” Davis said Friday, “and that’s great for being under the water all that time.”

The car went through a fence into a 15-foot-deep retention pond, known as “Rupari’s Pond,” where it was “totally submerged’’ for 10 minutes before Sgt. Ricardo Frausto went into action, the chief said.

Davis said a passersby driving in the opposite direction saw the crash and called 911, and Frausto was one of the first responders.

Frausto said he was on his way home from a work meeting and “luckily’’ was wearing regular clothing.

“So I had to do a real quick strip and I took my gun off. I had shorts and a shirt,’’ Frausto said. “I was the first in the water, it was cold and freezing.”

The sergeant said after breaking the rear window with a police baton and grabbing the women, he found her stuck. He worked on getting her out for about 3 to 4 minutes.

“I got a hold of her arm but I couldn’t get her out. She was struck in there pretty good,’’ Frausto said.

Phoenix Officer Gerald Shives said he was the second officer on the scene, but did not dive in.

“I could hear the lady screaming, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying,’’ said Shives. “I was trying to tell her to get into the back seat.’’

Other divers came to the scene and helped, eventually cutting the seatbealt and getting her out, according to Frausto. The woman was taken to Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey.

Initially they believed there were two people inside the car, but Davis said it was only the woman, who lives near the mayor and knows him well. The car was removed from the water after the rescue and a search of the pond.

Firefighters and officers from several police and fire agencies responded, including South Holland, Calumet City, East Hazel Crest and Frankfort. Oak Forest’s Incident Command Center also was at the scene as were divers from Lake County, Ind.

“He’s all cut up, he did an excellent job,’’ Davis said of Frausto. “It’s just second nature for him to do that (rescue).”

Frausto, who spent four years in the Navy where he learned to swim and dive, will be nominated for a life-saving award, the chief said.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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