UPDATE (3:05 p.m. on Monday, May 2): According to Braxton County officials, investigators believe this incident is a murder-suicide.
Law enforcement officials say they have security video of the crash which shows Bell driving in the parking lot of the Braxton County Senior Citizens Center along Route 4 before steering the car into the river.
According to Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Robert Bailey, 24-year-old off-duty Gassaway Volunteer Firefighter, John D. Forbush, was working less than a mile away when he heard the initial dispatch call on his department-issued radio. He responded to the scene.
Once there, Forbush communicated on his radio that the victims appeared to be trapped inside the vehicle. He then jumped into the river to attempt to rescue them. He was unable to free the victims from the vehicle, and he lost his own life in the process.
All three bodies were recovered from the Elk River at around 4:26 p.m. on Sunday.
In a statement, Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Robert Bailey said the following:
John D. Forbush selflessly gave his life for strangers in need. He proudly served the Gassaway community for 4 years as a volunteer firefighter. His service to the community will forever be remembered. Summersville Fire Department, from Nicholas County, also responded to the scene with Dive Rescue resources. Fire departments from around the region will continue to provide resources and support to the Gassaway VFD and the citizens of Braxton County.Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Robert Bailey
UPDATE (1:38 p.m. on Monday, May 2): Braxton County Emergency Services Director John Hoffman has released the names of the mother and daughter killed in this accident.
42-year-old Latonya Bell, of Cleveland, Ohio, and her daughter 8-year-old Havana Pipkins died in this accident on Sunday.
UPDATE — The heroic volunteer firefighter who died while attempting to rescue a woman and a child near Gassaway has been identified as John Forbush, according to the Summersville Police Department.
UPDATE- The Braxton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a single-vehicle accident that occurred just south of Sutton, WV near the Herold bridge when the vehicle went into the Elk River.
Both occupants drowned in the accident. A volunteer fireman also drowned attempting to rescue the victims. A deputy and state trooper were able to pull one of the victims from the water.
The deputy and state trooper were also able to pull another man from the water that was attempting to rescue victims and was beginning to go under. That person is expected to be okay.
All victims have been recovered.
The Braxton County Sheriff’s office was assisted in this investigation by the West Virginia State Police, Braxton County EMS and several volunteer fire departments. No names are being released at this time and the investigation is ongoing.
SUTTON, WV (WOWK) – A firefighter died in the line of duty Sunday while trying to rescue two people whose car went into the Elk River.
A woman and child also died in the accident that happened around 2:30 Sunday afternoon in Sutton.
This is according to Braxton County Emergency Services Director John Hoffman who tells 13 News no names are being released at this time.
The incident happened about a quarter-mile north of exit 62 on I-79 and Sutton along the Elk River, Hoffman said.
West Virginia State Police is investigating and has plans to release more information later tonight.