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SUV tumbles into river; four occupants escape safely

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Watertown city police are trying to figure out how a car went off the road on Water Street late Friday afternoon and ended up submerged in the Black River.

Details were sketchy, but four family members, including two adults, a teenager and a small child, were inside the sports utility vehicle when the accident happened about 5 p.m. near Jain Irrigation, which occupies the old Chapin Watermatics Inc. plant on the street’s 700 block.

All of the unidentified people got out safely and made their way to the riverbank, police said. They were treated on scene and were taken by ambulance to Samaritan Medical Center with minor injuries.

Lt. Charles P. “Chip” Donoghue said he “couldn’t be any happier” to see all four people from the vehicle on shore when he arrived in the first group of responders to the scene. “That was the best possible outcome for all this.”

He said it was “not often” vehicles enter the river.

The SUV went over the embankment and landed in the middle of the river, where it became completely submerged, police said. The crash also left a big gash in the road, which Lt. Donoghue speculated was caused by a vehicle part dragging along the ground.

Trent A. Rounds, sitting on his front porch near the crash area, said he was near his home’s front window when the crash occurred.

“I just saw dust flying by,” he said. Immediately afterward, he said, he heard the impact of the crash.

Outside, he could hear other people yelling about the crash. Running down to the edge of the water with his stepfather, Travis J. Bice, Mr. Rounds said, he saw a woman with blonde hair holding a child and a male teenager and another woman swimming to shore. He said he saw a large cut on the woman’s chin, creating a line of blood on the lower part of her face.

Mr. Bice said he ran back up to the road to call 911, and emergency crews arrived about five minutes later.

Eleanor V. VanEpps said she was lying on her couch when the crash occurred, and she heard the bang clearly.

“I thought it was a bomb,” she said.

The river’s fast current carried the SUV downstream, police said. First responders were trying to figure how to get the vehicle out of the water.

Police had not yet released a finalized accident report as of Friday night.

Times staff writers Craig Fox and Jaegun Lee contributed to this report.

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