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Car plunges into Ga. pond; rescue attempts fail
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DUBLIN, Ga.— Angie Johnson was outside waiting for the school bus to bring her child home Wednesday when she heard the noise.

"I figured a car down the road must have hit a dog," said Johnson, "But when nobody came around the curve, I knew something was wrong."

Johnson went around the sharp curve on Robert Webb Road in East Laurens to see what happened. The sight terrified her. Skid marks in the road and dirt showed a vehicle lost control. The marks led to a privately owned pond where Johnson saw a silver Dodge Stratus rapidly submerging beneath the icy water.

"I saw a woman coming out of the water, so I knelt down and handed her my hand to help her out," said Johnson. "I asked her if she was OK and she said she was. I asked her if anyone else was in the car and she said 'Yes. I can't get to him'. She said he was out before they hit the water. I think she said his name was Ronnie."

In the car was Ronald Gibbs Blount Sr., 49, of nearby Rose Ave. But Blount and the car were submerged under the water.

"Then I saw Caleb coming out of the water," said Johnson. "He said 'I can't get to him.'"

Caleb Monroe had been the first on the scene. The 19-year-old had just left his job at Middle Georgia Road Builders to run an errand when he saw the sedan floating on top of the water.

"I saw the woman was just climbing out of the passenger window," said Monroe. "So I pulled my truck off the road, and called 911 as I took off my boots."

Without hesitation, Monroe dove into the frigid water.

"I could see the man was wearing a red jacket and I saw his head up against the air bag," said Monroe. "But by the time I got out there, the car was underwater. I couldn't even touch the top of the car with my feet."

Monroe stayed in the water as long as he could trying to reach the driver - so long that his own body became numb.

"There was nothing I could do," he said. "I tried but I couldn't do anything."

Back at the water's edge, Johnson was trying to warm Monroe and the woman, whose identity has not officially been released.

"The woman was just dazed. She was wearing a thick jacket, but she was wet and freezing," said Johnson. "I told my child to go call 911 and get some blankets. My mother brought down some blankets to keep them warm. Then the rescue personnel started to arrive."

Along Robert Webb Road the emergency vehicles lined the shoulder. Rural Fire Department, East Dublin Fire, Georgia State Patrol, Laurens County Sheriff's Department, East Dublin Police Department all responded to the scene.

"Cpl. Chuck Harden suited up in scuba gear and went in," said Sheriff Bill Harrell. "That water was freezing but he went in searching for survivors."

Harden worked in the frigid water trying to free Blount from the vehicle. Unable to free him, Harden then dove in to attach a tow cable to the car. As soon as the car was partially above the water's surface, rescuers pulled him from the vehicle.

Emergency responders worked diligently to revive Blount. He was rushed Fairview Park Hospital with sheriff's deputies providing escort. Dublin Police officers cleared roadways ahead of them, however, Blount did not survive.

Georgia State Patrol Trooper Ronnie Shuemake said the woman was medically examined and released at the scene. Shuemake said as with any fatal accident, an investigation is being conducted to determine the cause. I

Although Monroe was distraught that his efforts had been unsuccessful, he was grateful for the kindness of Johnson's family.

"Her mother, Mrs. Alvin Johnson, took me back up to her house and gave me some dry clothes. And I stayed in front of a heater for about an hour," Monroe said.

"It was very touching what these people did," said Harrell. "Folks ought to realize what they did for our community. They risked their own lives. It is very humbling to live in this community. That young man was especially brave."

Monroe's parents, Hal and Tammy Monroe, credit their son's training as an Eagle Scout for preparing him to courageously confront tragedy.

"We are very blessed and humbled by what he did," said Mrs. Monroe.

" Both our sons, Caleb and Alex (21) are Eagle Scouts from Troop 159. They were trained to be a good citizens and I think Scouts provided Caleb with the courage and the ability he needed. We are so grateful that he tried to help — and we are so blessed that he is safe and had the courage to try."

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