Lake Monticello lifeguards rescue victim of crash at main beach

By Heather Michon

Around 9:45 am on Thursday (July 6), off-duty Lake Monticello pool manager Paige Tomaras was giving a private swim lesson when she heard a strange noise.

It was the sound of a car speeding down the hill from the Ashland Clubhouse parking lot. 

The vehicle slammed through the tall fence around the pool, crossed the concrete pool deck, punched through the other side of the fence, and continued down the hill, across the sandy beach, and into the water.

Tomaras got her student out of the pool and called for lifeguards Zachary Butler and Savannah Peterson. The trio gathered their gear and ran down to the beach, joined by Lake residents Mark Post and Carrie Lambert.  

The driver was still in the car, by then rapidly filling with water.

Finding the door jammed, Butler began pulling the woman out through the window. “The car started to bubble and then sink,” said Tomaras. “They actually both went under for a split second, which was terrifying, but he was able to get her out safely with no injuries.”

Tomaras said the woman was conscious and did not seem to be disoriented. “She told us she did not black out during the entire thing She knew what was going on. She was able to answer all of our questions.” Paramedics arrived within a few minutes and transported her to a Charlotteville hospital for evaluation.

The entire incident lasted five to ten minutes. The only damage was to property. Workers near the pool and the ten or so residents on the beach were unharmed. Lifeguards responded within seconds and paramedics were on the scene in minutes. Within 90 minutes, the vehicle was being towed away and protective booms were collecting any oil or fluids released into the water crash. Crews were already beginning to erase the tire tracks from the sand. It was a textbook response to a bizarre circumstance.

Still, some onlookers were shaken by the “what ifs.” 

“You see the tire tracks right down there? There was a boy on his towel, under that umbrella,” Tomaras pointed. “So he could have been hit. He was barely missed.”

If the accident occurred an hour or two later, both the beach and pool could have been packed with people. 

“This could have been a very horrible morning,” said LMOA Communications Director Marieke Henry.

The driver, who has not been identified, told first responders that she thought her brakes had failed. The early consensus by those who saw the incident was that she had mistaken the accelerator for the brake and sped down the hillside at 30-40 mph. 

The Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office is currently performing a full crash investigation.   

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