Woman trapped in submerged vehicle dies; driver hospitalized

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

MARICOPA, Ariz. -- Firefighters and police officers rescued two women from a submerged vehicle in Maricopa Monday morning, but one of them has died.

At this time, it is not clear how the vehicle went off the road and into a community lake near Honeycutt Road and Rancho Mirage Boulevard.

Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said the driver was on the roof when officers arrived and firefighters were in the water, attempting to get a female occupant out of the submerged van.

Alvarado said a bystander had jumped into the water and was helping firefighters with the rescue.

Eric Schafroth said he was driving by and wanted to help. Schafroth said he had volunteered with the fire department years ago and is EMT-trained.

"It was a bit cold, but your adrenaline keeps you going to do what you gotta do to help someone," Schafroth said.

The rescuers were able to pull the trapped woman out of the vehicle.

"She had been in the water for quite a long time," Alvarado said. "She was unresponsive."

Bernadette Rose Lopez, 59, and Eileen Olive Brown, 46, were transported by ambulance to Chandler Regional Medical Center. Brown later died.

Some police officers and firefighters were taken to the hospital to be checked out due to the reclaimed water in the lake. In addition, Alvarado said there was a risk for hypothermia due to the temperature of the water.

"The risk of exposure to our officers and the people in the vehicle was great so we're hoping that everybody turns out to be OK in this situation," he said.

Two tow trucks were called to the scene to remove the vehicle from the water.