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'We need to get him out' — Lincoln man, police officer reflect on rescue of driver from southeast Lincoln pond

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Two Lincoln men and a police officer helped save a driver from drowning after his vehicle left the roadway and crashed into a pond on Saturday in southeast Lincoln, police say.

Jordan Kurtzer, 35, was driving on 75th Street near Badger Drive when he noticed a large splash in the pond near the road. When he got closer, he noticed that a pickup was partially submerged.

"I knew (the pond) didn't have a fountain, so when I pulled up I saw a truck floating in the pond, my first thought was, 'We need to get him out,'" Kurtzer said.

Kurtzer, a local sheet metal worker, immediately entered the pond and began swimming to the pickup, accompanied by another man at the scene who wished to remain anonymous.

When they reached the pickup, they found that the doors were all locked. Kurtzer said that the other man brought a tire iron from his car, which Kurtzer used to break the rear window. He then unlocked the rear passenger door.

Truck in the pond

Two Lincoln men and a police officer helped save a driver from drowning after his vehicle left the roadway and crashed into a pond on Saturday in southeast Lincoln, police say.

"Once we got the rear door open, that's when the truck started to flood with water and sink," Kurtzer said. "I was able to get into the passenger side rear, and unlock the passenger side front door, and (the other man) got in the front."

Kurtzer then unbuckled the driver, and reclined the driver's seat all the way to move the driver into the backseat. The driver was conscious, but unresponsive, according to police.

"I knew we weren't going to be able to go over the center console into the passenger side. When I got his seat laid back, I noticed there were life jackets floating in the backseat."

At this point, the water was halfway up the cab of the pickup. Kurtzer and the other man put the life jackets around the arms of the driver and held onto him to keep him afloat.

"I knew right outside the door I couldn't touch (the bottom) and we were probably 15-20 feet away from shore, and I wasn't sure if I could hold him to the point that I could touch," Kurtzer said.

While the men were in the backseat with the driver, Sgt. Tu Tran of the Lincoln Police Department arrived at the scene.

"When I first arrived, the truck was maybe just a couple feet underwater, but I could tell that it was sinking slowly," Tran said.

Tran immediately jumped in to help Kurtzer hold onto the driver, and they pulled him out before the vehicle was fully submerged. Tran could reach the bottom near the back of the vehicle, and they worked together with the third man to float the driver to the shore.

On the way to the shore, Tran was snagged by a fishing lure, so Kurtzer pulled the man the final few feet to shore, where medics were waiting.

"I'm not surprised, but very proud just to see a citizen help another citizen," Tran said. "It's nice to see people still willing to help each other out."

According to the police report, the driver of the vehicle had a medical episode, causing him to lose control of the vehicle and enter the pond. The driver was taken to the hospital, where he is expected to recover.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or dbennett@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @DamonJBennett

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