Good Samaritans lauded following Range Rover sinking

Sign prohibiting unauthorized vehicles replaced in vicinity of accident.

A sign warding away unauthorized vehicles has been replaced on the corner of North Road and Boathouse Road.

In a letter to Chilmark selectmen, Chilmark Police Chief Jonathan Klaren praised the efforts of two good Samaritans to aid three people who toppled from the Menemsha drive-on dock into the Menemsha Channel inside a Range Rover. 

“As you are aware, a vehicle unintentionally drove off the filled dock last Tuesday evening [July 28]. I am pleased to report that all of the occupants were able to escape from the sinking vehicle and made their way safely to shore,” Klaren wrote. “While escaping from a submerging vehicle was a daunting task for this family, they were not entirely out of danger. The outgoing tide was running strong, and there are not many options for coming ashore safely along that section of the channel.”

Klaren went on to write, “I would like to recognize the efforts of Solon Oliver and Heidi Blau. Solon had been tubing in his boat nearby with Mrs. Blau and her children, just prior to the accident. Unsolicited, they made their way over to the submerging vehicle, and were able to assist the family safely to shore from the outgoing tide of Menemsha Creek. There is no doubt that the efforts of Solon and Heidi enabled this family to walk away physically unscathed.”

Additionally, someone who hasn’t been identified also helped out. 

“Another unidentified male entered the water from the shoreline to assist the distressed family,” he wrote. “While we do not know who this person is, we would like [to] identify him to recognize his effort also.” 

A replacement warning sign reading “Unauthorized Motor Vehicles Prohibited Beyond This Point” has been affixed to a post at the intersection of North Road and Boathouse Road by the Galley, according to Klaren and town administrator Tim Carroll. The sign guards the entrance to Boathouse Road, which leads to the drive-on dock and West Dock. Klaren said it seems to have vanished over the winter, and was found missing in May. 

Two such signs were ordered, Klaren said, and Chilmark Police had the highway department install one in its former spot on August 5. It’s unclear if the other sign has been put up yet. 

The sign by the Galley was absent when Robert Drew of Andover drove past with his family on the evening of July 28, and soon after plunged into the channel. It’s unclear if the lack of a sign played any role in the accident. Other signs, such as one posted at the beginning of the drive-on dock that warns the area is permit parking only, remained in place at the time of Drew’s accident. Klaren described the area around the Galley and Boathouse Road as an ongoing challenge for vehicles and pedestrians to navigate, given the limited space to maneuver. 

Drew was given a written warning for failure to use care when stopping, backing, or turning, a finalized police report shows. Information previously released by Chilmark Police stated Drew was cited, but didn’t indicate the citation was a warning. Drew told police trouble with the Range Rover’s dial shifter seems to have triggered the plunge. 

A two-person dive team aided and a piece of excavation equipment worked to salvage the submerged Range Rover on July 29. The Range Rover was ultimately hoisted onto Boathouse Road. 

“Once on dry land, an inspection of the vehicle showed that the transmission dial appeared to have been turned all the way to the left, beyond designated ‘slot’ for the ‘park’ option,” a finalized report states. “Robert Drew stated he thinks when the vehicle wasn’t going backward like he thought it should be, he turned the dial all the way counterclockwise past the ‘park’ slot. He thinks he turned it so hard the dial went past where it should have. Drew thinks the car was in drive, but at the time thought it was in reverse. When the car rolled forward he gave it more gas, thinking it would send the car backward but instead sent it through the railing of the fence. The steering wheel was bent forward toward the dashboard. Drew stated that he remembers locking out his arms, bracing for when the vehicle went nose-down into the water.”