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Father and Daughter Drown After Van Plunges Into Water, Despite Efforts to Save Them


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It was a frantic and somber day at the South Jetty near Venice, Florida, on Monday. Two people in a van plunged off the jetty moments after hitting a sign. They were later identified as Eugene Hayden, 88, and his daughter Carol Hayden, 64.

Despite the desperate efforts of several strangers, they weren’t able to get Hayden or his daughter out of the vehicle due high winds, a strong tide and the rate at which the vehicle sank.

“They were frozen with fear, but I’d like the family to know they certainly did everything they could to get out,” one of the good Samaritans, Tim Cobb of Venice, said.

Cell phone video captured at the scene shows just how hard the attempted rescuers fought to get them out:

“I gave them the ‘roll down the windows’ motion and they just shook their heads,” Cobb continued. “They couldn’t get the windows down.”

Despite one man successfully shattering a driver’s side rear window, but was only able to get in up to his shoulders.

Eugene and Carol were said to have been in good spirits on Monday before everything unfolded. They were well known in their neighborhood and lived at a nearby retirement community.

We’d like to express our thanks to the good people that tried everything to prevent this tragic situation from turning out how it did. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families affected by this loss.

From the Venice, Florida Municipal Government Facebook page:

On Monday, May 8, 2017, at 4:21 p.m. the Venice Police Department responded to a report of a vehicle that drove off the South Jetty and into the waterway. Callers were reporting that there were two subjects inside the vehicle and that the vehicle was slowly submerging. Rescue attempts were made by a Venice Police Officer and citizens who entered the water from the South Jetty as well as a passing boat. The Venice Marine Patrol arrived on scene as the vehicle completely submerged into the Venice Inlet.

As shown below in this witness video obtained by VPD, rescuers placed themselves in harm’s way due to strong winds and tidal current; unfortunately, they were unable to remove the vehicle’s occupants. Additional agencies responded, including the Venice Fire Department, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Marine and SURF Team, Sarasota Police Department Dive Team, U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Sarasota County Fire Rescue.

The vehicle was located and towed to Higel Marine Park for further investigation. The victims have been identified as Eugene Hayden (DOB 07/03/1928) and his daughter, Carol Hayden (DOB 12/18/1952).

We would like to thank all additional personnel and bystanders that assisted during this event. At this time, the case is still under investigation pending further review and a Medical Examiner’s Report. For further information, contact the Venice Police Records department, referencing case number 17-0001018.


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