West Tisbury driver plunges car into Sengekontacket Pond

A firefighter attached a line to the Honda Accord prior to pulling it from the water. — Photo by Robert Gatchell

Oak Bluffs police plan to seek multiple motor vehicle charges against Emily Sobel, 23, of West Tisbury, following an early Friday morning accident that left her 1998 Honda Accord partially submerged in Sengekontacket Pond, and triggered an all-out emergency response from Oak Bluffs firefighters, members of the dive team, and EMTs.

Ms. Sobel was traveling south along Beach Road when she drove off the road just before Big Bridge, went across a dirt parking lot, over a rock embankment, and plunged into the saltwater pond about 3 am, Friday morning, Oak Bluffs Police Lieutenant Tim Williamson told The Times. Photos from the scene of the accident also reveal damage to the wood guardrails that separate the bike path from the roadway.

Ms. Sobel managed to climb out of her vehicle through the sunroof and left the scene of the accident without calling police, Lieutenant Williamson said. Charles Morano, a lawyer representing Ms. Sobel, called police Friday morning to report the accident.

Mr. Morano could not be reached for comment.

“Clearly, there’s a reason she did not report it,” Mr. Williamson said.

Lieutenant Williamson said police will seek charges against Ms. Sobel that include leaving the scene of an accident, operating to endanger, and marked lanes violation.

Late Friday morning, firefighters assisted a tow truck operator to retrieve the vehicle from the water. “She was some lucky that her car did not flip over trapping her in the vehicle,” Lieutenant Williamson said.

Big Bridge spans one of two channels that allow an exchange of water between the pond and Nantucket Sound. At the height of the tidal flow, the current is a rushing torrent.

Acting Oak Bluffs fire chief John Rose said a passing motorist saw the vehicle in the water and called 911. First responders received a call for a vehicle submerged in the water about 7:30 am. There was no other information. Rescue personnel did not know if anyone was in the car or in the water. “We dispatched everything,” Chief Rose told The Times.

That included the dive team and dive boat, in addition to firefighters.

Mr. Rose said that he did not know if they would arrive to find someone trapped in a vehicle, or being swept out in the current. When seconds count he said, “We always want to err on the side of caution. You just don’t know.”

Mr. Rose said he later spoke to the young woman. She told him she did not want to make a “big deal.”

“If she had just called it would not have been a big deal,” Mr. Rose said.

A similar accident occurred in the same spot in June 2012 when a young woman drove off the road and was helped from her car by a late-night fisherman.

Mr. Rose said he plans to speak to state officials about placing some type of barrier at the edge of the embankment.