Police sergeant dead after car plunges into Schuylkill River

June 1, 2011 5:55:17 AM PDT
Just after 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, witnesses say they saw a vehicle on Kelly Drive headed away from Center City suddenly spin out of control, cross the opposite lanes, and go straight into the Schuylkill River.

Almost immediately, several Good Samaritans plunged in to try to save the lone passenger in that car; they had no idea at the time it was a stricken off-duty police officer inside.

"When the car went in there were two individuals that jumped in to attempt to rescue the sergeant," Sgt. Ray Evers a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department.

An off-duty city police officer was the first into the river to try to save the driver, not knowing it was a fellow officer inside.

The second rescuer on scene was a medical student coming to the river to row.

A third person jumped in with a pocketknife that was used to cut the officer's seatbelt so they could free him.

Fire emergency arrived and quickly the victim was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

By then it was clear the deceased was 55-year-old Police Sergeant Stephen Naughton who had just finished his work shift.

"Had an opportunity to meet with the officer's family members; it is always a tragedy when we lose any of our officers, whether on duty or off duty," Mayor Michael Nutter said.

Nutter praised all who risked their own lives to rescue Sgt. Naughton including the off-duty officer.

"She obviously exhibited usual heroism our officers engage in on a daily basis," Nutter said.

Naughton is a 31-year veteran of the police force and worked in the Community Relations Unit.

He leaves behind a wife and two children.

The entire department will be mourn him as they await a medical examiner's ruling on what caused Naughton to lose control of his vehicle as he routinely headed home for the night.