When Washington State Patrol Trooper Jay Farmer went through his basic training at the academy, it included practicing a water rescue with a dummy submerged in a car. Little did he know he’d one day have to put it in to practice to help save a life.
Farmer and another man are credited with a dramatic rescue Saturday on I-90 three miles east of Ellensburg. A car had crashed through a fence and dove in a pond with the 30-year-old driver unconscious and trapped inside.
Farmer tells KIRO Radio’s Ron & Don Show he was about seven miles away when he got the call and rushed to the scene. When he arrived, he saw a small part of the back window sticking out of the water, and several people waving frantically alongside the road trying to get his attention.
“Everybody was trying to talk to me at once and I picked one person to have her explain what we had going on,” Farmer says.
He quickly learned the driver had careened into the pond. Passing motorist Jim Kocker – who happened to be a former lifeguard and firefighter – had already swam out to the car and tried to rescue the driver, but couldn’t get the door open and the window was rolled up.
“He said he’d never had any water training. He had never gone through water rescue of this type,” Farmer says.
Kocker told the trooper the car had been in the water about 25 minutes. Farmer knew he had to act fast.
“I had brought my baton from my vehicle and began shedding my gear and asked if he (Kocker) wanted to come in and help me again. And he said ‘yeah, of course.'”
They jumped back in and headed for the car.
“I could kind of hear gurgling and kind of yelling from under the water. I knew he was submerged and something needed to happen quick so I broke the back passenger window,” Farmer says.
Somehow the car started to level off after Farmer broke the window and the driver’s door popped open. The two rescuers grabbed the unconscious man and swam him back to shore. It was only after they got him in the ambulance that the trooper realized how cold he was.
“I’m actually from North Dakota and I’ve done a polar bear plunge. I’m used to the cold elements, but nothing prepares you for that,” he says.
Farmer says shock and adrenaline kept him going. “It took me an hour before I finally stopped shaking and could write my report.”
Somehow, the driver avoided any serious injury. He was able to go home a few hours later.
Farmer is getting plenty of attention for the rescue, but he humbly insists he doesn’t deserve any special mention for “just doing my job.”
“Everybody should be talking to Jim. Jim was just a passing motorist on his way to Pullman and he pulled over and, out of the goodness of his heart, jumped in freezing water to save a complete stranger. That, to me, is a hero.”