ODOT worker dives in to save driver of submerged truck

ODOT worker dives in to save driver of submerged truck
ODOT employee Troy Elverfeld dove into this pond to save Dean Stilwell who was trapped in his pickup. (Photo courtesy: Oregon State Police)

NEAR ALBANY, Ore. – An Oregon Department of Transportation employee jumped into action and into a pond to save a man who was trapped in his submerged pickup after a five-vehicle crash Monday.

According to Oregon State Police, the ODOT employee, 47-year-old Troy Elverfeld, saw smoke rising from the chain-reaction wreck just before 3:30 p.m. on Highway 20 east of Albany and rushed to the scene.

Troopers said that eastbound traffic on the highway was stopped for ODOT work when a resident of Sisters, 21-year-old John L. Olson, plowed into the back of a 1970 Chevrolet pickup driven by 56-year-old Dean Stilwell of Sweet Home.

Olson’s 1996 Dodge pickup was towing a trailer of hay. Police said he failed to notice that traffic was stopped, but when he did he slammed on his brakes and could not avoid a collision.

After being hit, Stilwell’s pickup crashed into a Dodge Caravan driven by Shirley Harrison, 81, of Albany, and then shot across the road and into the pond where his pickup sank. Two other cars were hit in the chain-reaction accident, as well.

When Elverfeld arrived at the scene, he grabbed a metal rod from a backhoe and dove into the water. He found Stilwell trapped in the pickup with the windows rolled up. After three tries, Elverfeld broke the driver’s side window with the rod and pulled Stilwell out.

Stilwell was taken to the hospital with a concussion and state troopers said he could not remember being inside his submerged pickup.

Olson, Harrison and two others, including a 2-year-old, were also taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Police cited Olson for careless driving.