West Tisbury driver plunges car into Sengekontacket Pond

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.

Police inspected a damaged portion of the wood guardrail Friday morning.
Police inspected a damaged portion of the wood guardrail Friday morning.

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.

The car was safely pulled up the embankment Friday morning.
The car was safely pulled up the embankment Friday morning.

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.


  1. It is my understanding that the motorist is also facing charges of shellfishing without a license and shellfishing after sunset. Her attorney has advised me that Ms. Sobel (not to be confused with Ms. Sober) was simply attempting to avoid a large wooden shark in her lane of travel, a common occurrence on the Island at this time of year.

  2. The pond is an obvious hazard to young female drivers and should be drained and filled in.

  3. How the heck did she get home? Whoever helped her should be held responsible as well.

    1. Really? Perhaps she was picked up hitch hiking. Should we hold the person who picked up a wet hitchhiker on the side of the road responsible? How about you wait tip you have some actual facts before you start spreading your hate for once? I for one, am sick of your holier than thou attitude. Wait until you know what you are talking about.

      1. Name a scenario where you find a wet hitchhiker on beach road at 3 am in February and don’t think to report it.

        1. Seriously? none of my business. also none of yours. Giving someone in need a ride doesn’t make you obligated to do anything.

        2. Also, you’re ignoring (again) the fact that you don’t really know what happened. You can throw as much smokescreen and moral superiority around as you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are just another armchair commenter making moral judgements without facts. Have fun in you small little world

  4. This accident and the one in June 2012 are nearly identical. Obviously the fault lies with the drivers but perhaps the State should consider installing a better barrier in this area. Both accidents could have easily resulted in the deaths of these two young women, we might not be so lucky the third time.

    1. Stopping suddenly when hitting the guard rail or bouncing into on-coming traffic could also be deadly to the drivers and other people.

      1. Please do not prejudge the condition of the person. When you leave the scene at 3am, don’t tell anyone and have your lawyer call later in the morning it cannot mean she was drunk and of course it is very easy to go into the pond from that road if one is sober.

  5. It’s incredible how innacurate most of the facts are in this article. Never realized how poorly they investigated an incident before making an article until this time when I happened to know this person. Definitely won’t be judging anyone based on “facts” from the mvtimes anymore.

      1. I’m just happy she’s safe. Pre judge, hate and be mean. Better yet just make stuff up because it’s a slow week.

        I have no idea who she is but sure know it’s not easy being 23 on this island. Glad and hope she’s safe.

  6. One can guess why she left just by looking at her facebook page while it is still up.

    1. Not sure what you would assume by looking at the facebook page of a 23 year old? I see nothing wrong with her page or anything that would imply why you THINK she “left.” Remember what happens when you assume. Here’s some common sense… the car is clearly submerged in the water as seen in the pictures above, now, can one assume that her phone was perfectly dry and intact enough to make a phone call for help? No. Maybe that’s why she “left” rather than sitting in the freezing cold soaking wet on a rainy night on the side of beach road waiting and hoping for someone to pass by. It’s not my place to give any more information, but you may want to have your facts in line before you decide to judge a situation.

      1. Common sense says a traumatized woman who drives her car into a freezing body of water and manages to somehow get home, at 3 in the morning, alerts someone and seeks police or medical care. Did she hitch a ride, soaking wet in the middle of the night and pretend nothing life threatening just happened to her? Did she walk home in her condition? Common sense says the woman was impaired and waited to call her lawyer first. I don’t know how she got home but your scenario stops short of making sense. When something doesn’t make sense it is nonsense.

        1. As stated earlier- most of the facts in the article are wrong- (ie): THE TIME for one! And although I would LOVE to fill your small-minded head in with the correct facts and full story, it is not my place to do so. So continue to assume as you wish and live in your bubble. Don’t think it really matters anyway. Also, where in the article did it state she “managed to get home?” Yet, another assumption!
          She is alive and that is all I am happy about :) Have a good day!

        2. Sounds like she might have read “Teddy Bear” the story about the Dyke Bridge on Chappy in Aug 1969

      2. I guessed that she had no license for one thing like most of them, I did not say she didn’t I said I could guess!!

        1. Wrong.

          Its weird that when I posted a comment a little bit ago about how the times got most of their info wrong in this article it was instantly removed. Let’s just say they don’t have many accurate facts here and I am just happy she is alive! Again, 7bus, no where does it say she made it home.

        2. Vineyard Native I had to look and she likes all Boston sports team and has a black lab. Id let her go with an instruction from the judge on what to do if it ever happens again. Weather was miserable that night.

  7. The only thing that we know for a fact is that Ms. Sobel broke the law when she left the scene of an accident. And for that matter, she should be criminally charged.

  8. A lot of the comments here are an attempt at comedy. I happen to know and like this young woman. The facts will reveal between her and interviews with counsel and police officials. The largest lack of good judgement on the part of Ms. Sobel was NOT making this accident known immediately to law enforcement officials. I too have assumptions as to why that is, but the biggest problem with it in my mind is that when someone finally saw this vehicle in the water, a presumption that it may have JUST occurred, triggered a large response from law enforcement officers, EMS, Fire, Dive crew folks and on and on. They responded accordingly, believing a life or lives were at stake and needing saving, thereby putting emergency responders safety at risk for no reason whatsoever. Also at great cost related to all that response. If Ms. Sobel takes nothing else away from this situation, I hope the lesson is learned that had she called in as soon as possible, this emergency response could have been avoided as they would have then known everyone was safe and the need for search-rescue-recovery would have not been needed.

  9. This may be a dumb question but if she fled the scene with no witnesses how do we know she did this? I keep rereading the article and I’m not seeing it.