Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 1, 2013

After tragedy avoided: Princeton officials continue to work for solution to flood woes

GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Finding the funding to alleviate flooding problems on Stafford Drive continued this week after heavy rains swelled local creeks and almost swept an SUV carrying a woman and child under a bridge.

Heavy rain had swollen the creek  running alongside the Grant’s Supermarket parking lot at the Athens Crossroads in Princeton when an SUV suddenly went into the water. First responders were alerted at approximately 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, but passersby moved quickly to help the woman and boy trapped inside the vehicle.

“A witness was our first responder,” said Patrolman B.E. Grimm of the Princeton Police Department. “He actually got in there and got the kid out.”

Billy Bowden, 35, of Princeton said Thursday that he learned about the situation as he was leaving Grant’s Supermarket.

“I walked out with my groceries and a man came running up to me and said there was a kid in a car that was in the creek, and he couldn’t swim,” Bowden said. “I went over to the creek and looked, and it wasn’t good. I was afraid they were going to go under Oakvale Road and get stuck. When I saw it and jumped in, the car was pointing toward the culvert.”

The boy had opened his window.

“He had his window down and was just screaming for somebody to help him,” Bowden said. “When I got into the car, I yelled at her a couple of times and she didn’t budge, and I had to get him out. I couldn’t just stand and watch it happen.”

Members of the Princeton Fire Department, Princeton Rescue Squad and other passersby helped get the boy’s mother from the vehicle. The woman was very disoriented, but conscious and talking to people after she was rescued, Grimm said.

Witnesses said that she had slumped behind the wheel of her vehicle before it went into the water.

Another shopper went into the water to try and help. Darlene Colbird, 32, of Princeton said her 8-year-old son heard screams for help.

“By that time the SUV had started sinking,” she recalled later, “I took off my boots and hit the water. I started praying and asking ‘Lord, how are we going to do this?’”

Colbird said she beat on the car’s window and tried waking the woman, who woke up. First responders arrived and told her to get off the car.

“I was so thankful to see them because they helped me off,” she said.

Both the woman and the 4-year-old boy were taken to Princeton Community Hospital for evaluation. Grimm declined to release their names, saying the investigation was still underway.

“An unknown medical condition could have contributed to the accident,” he said.

The boy was released to his grandfather.

High water signs were erected that same evening at the Bee Street and Trent Street intersections of nearby Stafford Drive as high water yet again covered the roadway. The city of Princeton has worked unsuccessfully to obtain a state Small Cities Block Grant to pay for improving drainage at Stafford Drive.

Mayor Patricia “Pat” Wilson said Thursday that the Hugh I. Shott Jr. Foundation has given the city a $250,000 grant to address Stafford Drive’s problems. An additional $250,000 is needed for the project.

City Manager Elke Doom and David Cole, executive director of the Region I Planning and Development Council, went to Charleston on Monday to speak with Kelly Workman, an official with the state Small Cities Block Grant program, Wilson said.

Wilson added that she and Doom plan to see District Manager Tom Camden of the state Department of Transportation next week to discuss funding.