(Old Saybrook-WTNH, Aug. 5, 2005 5:53 PM) _ A woman saved from a submerged car in the Connecticut River is now suing the town which rescued her. An attorney for Barbara Connors says his client suffered permanent brain damage because Old Saybrook did not have the right equipment to save her quick enough.
by News Channel 8's Tina Detelj
The lawsuit has surprised many in town who say the efforts of those rescuers saved this woman's life. This suit though targets the town, saying this accident could have been prevented and the rescue could have been quicker.
Last October, First Selectman Mike Pace honored those who rescued 76-year-old Barbara Connors and her son-in-law after his Ford Explorer plunged into the mouth of the Connecticut River. Today Pace finds himself defending those same rescuers from a lawsuit.
"It seems like a penalty for doing what was right, quick, and just."
Connors' attorney Robert Reardon says it took rescuers twenty-nine minutes to pull her from the submerged SUV. And he says if a dive team were in place things would be different.
"Unfortunately it took a great deal of time to get the diving equipment there that was needed to get down into this car and save this woman, and as a result she suffered severe brain injury, says Reardon.
Connors is also suing her son-in-law, Alan Hauser, who said he hit the accelerator instead of the brake causing the Explorer to crash through the fence and into the river.
The suit against the town does not name rescuers, but rather the first selectman and other town administrators. The suit says the fence was inadequate. It also says the town should have had signs indicating the dangerous conditions and it says the town should have had more police patrolling this area.
"What more visual clue than looking at the water to tell you not to go forward," says Pace.
"There's no question guardrails would have prevented it," says Reardon. "Guard rails stop vehicles from going off cliffs and into the water."
Today some enjoying this shoreline spot were surprised by the suit.
"You could put up a bigger barrier here but that wouldn't prevent something from happening again," says Phil Appell of Old Saybrook.
"She out to be thankful for everybody who saved her," says Steve Slifka of Old Saybrook. "She shouldn't be suing."
"I think it's wrong because they saved her life," says Pat Light of Westbrook.
Connors is now in a nursing home. Her attorney says she is grateful to the rescuers, but believes if the right equipment and signs were in place this would never have happened.