Officer Cindy Leal, a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol, said a CHP 911 dispatcher spent about 10 minutes on the phone with the woman who called to report that she was inside a vehicle that had gone into the river off Old River Road.
Leal said the woman worked at Cache Creek Casino and is believed to have been on her way home to West Sacramento when she phoned her daughter and said she didn't think the brakes on her car were working. At 8:11 a.m., the CHP dispatch center received a call from the woman, who said she was inside the car in the river. Leal said there was some difficulty in communicating because the woman spoke Punjabi and it took a few minutes to find someone who spoke the language. Leal said the connection was lost after about 10 minutes.
CHP officers found tire tracks at the point where family members believed the vehicle went into the river and divers were summoned, arriving about 9:30.
Leal said the vehicle, a 2009 Toyota Camry, was found about 2:30 p.m. near Monument Bend, about a quarter-mile downstream from where it was thought to have entered the river. The woman's body was found inside.
The woman's name has not been released.
John Mohamed, leader of the Sacramento Sheriff's Department's Drowning and Accident Rescue Team that was on scene, said the team worked with the Yolo County Sheriff's Department's marine unit, using side scanning sonar to locate the car. The vehicle was found in water 12 to 14 feet deep and about 50 feet from shore.
Mohamed said the current was about 2 knots, considered very swift for divers who went into the water to locate the car and assist in its recovery.
Leal said investigators have not had time to check the vehicle for mechanical malfunctions. She said the woman had no known health conditions that would have contributed to the crash, nor is it believed that alcohol or drugs were factors.
Mohamed stressed that it is important for motorists who frequently drive along waterways to know how to extricate themselves from a vehicle in the event that it goes into the water. He recommended motorists keep a tool, such as a screwdriver, in the car. Holding the tip of the screwdriver at the bottom of the window with one hand and hitting it with the other usually will cause the window to shatter. He also noted that electronic door locks can be unlocked manually, something people often forget.
Once in the water, people should not try to stand up. Instead, Mohamed said, they should assume a sitting position, as though seated in a recliner, with feet lifted up and pointed downstream, their bottom pointed downward, their right arm held out behind them and their left arm in front. In this position, he said, the current will push a person toward shore.
Wearing a seat belt is important, because it can prevent being knocked unconscious when a vehicle goes into the water. But people should be sure they know how to quickly release their seat belt once in the water and to quickly remove children from child safety seats.
DART offers water safety classes for the public. For information about the program, call (916) 732-4500.
Photo Caption: Divers prepare to enter the Sacramento River Wednesday morning to search for a car that may have driven into the river from Old River Road north of West Sacramento. Photo by Randall Benton / firstname.lastname@example.org