A pensioner and her two dogs drowned after her car rolled into a river when her husband got out to take photographs, it emerged today.
Tragedy struck as the 76-year-old waited to board the King Harry Ferry on the River Fal near Trelissick, Cornwall.
Her husband left the car to take snaps of the scenic stretch of water and witnesses say his wife initially got out of the car with him.
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But she then get back into the red Mazda saloon – which then rolled forward down the slipway.
It hit another vehicle before plunging into the freezing river at around 4pm on Wednesday.
A massive rescue operation was launched involving a helicopter, two lifeboats, a pilot tug and civilian divers but it was two hours before the car was retrieved and a body found.
Matt Vernon, 36, joined the rescue operation as he dived for mussels nearby and plunged 25ft down into the water to try and open the car doors.
He said: “I was coming back from diving. One of the ferry workers saw me and I was rowing back so he towed me over and asked to help.
“I still had all my wetsuit gear on so I got back into the water and tried to find the car and tried to get it open.
“It was really murky down there, the river is very deep, around 80ft, the car was down at around 25ft.
“I had been told there was possibly someone in the car so each dive was possibly trying to get the car open or smash a window but to no avail.
“At one point I got down to one side and noticed the window was wide open so the car was completely flooded and I couldn’t get in it because of the depth and the cold.
“I couldn’t see that much in the car, a lot of mud was stirred up. By the time I had finished trying to help, I had already been in the water for a long time.”
Inspector Richard Hocking of Devon and Cornwall Police said they were treating the incident as a ”tragic accident”.
He said: “Emergency services were called to the King Harry Ferry following a report of a vehicle having gone into the water on the Feock side.
“Coastguards attended although the vehicle is thought to have entered the water from the slipway. Fire services are attempting to recover the vehicle onto dry land.
“A vehicle was recovered from the water and an elderly female passenger has been recovered from the vehicle. Unfortunately the female was pronounced dead at the scene.
“The male driver was not in the vehicle at the time of the car entering the water and is unharmed at this time.
“We need to look at the vehicle to make sure there are no faults with it and try to get a full picture of exactly what’s gone on before we jump to any conclusion.”
Crew members raised the alarm as the car quickly sank and a frantic rescue operation was launched involving police, lifeboats and a helicopter from RNAS Culdrose.
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency added: “Divers went on scene to help locate the vehicle underwater and while search and rescue teams continued a search of the water and shore line, fire and rescue units winched the vehicle out of the water.
“The lady occupant of the vehicle was recovered from within the car at 6pm and was transferred to hospital by helicopter.”
The ferry connects St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula with Feock, Truro and Falmouth, and is an alternative route to a 27-mile journey through Truro and ‘.
A statement from the King Harry Ferry said the ferry was not directly involved in the incident and normal service would resume yesterday (Thurs).
It read: “A car rolled down the slipway and into the river on the Roseland side of the King Harry Ferry while the ferry was on the other side of the river.
“The emergency services were called immediately and arrived on the scene shortly after.
“The King Harry Ferry team and crew have been doing everything they can to help the coast guard, RNLI, fire service, police, ambulance service and local divers who are all on the scene.
“Our thoughts are with the friends and family of everyone involved in today’s tragedy. The ferry was not involved in the incident and our normal service will resume in the morning.”