Two pulled from sinking vehicle
Men describe their rescue of woman, child
By John Faucher
Thanks to the efforts of two good Samaritans, a woman and her young child are alive after being pulled from a sinking car on the Wolf River in the town of Mukwa Thursday, Aug. 6.
According to the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office, at 3:58 p.m. a vehicle driven by Yenifer Monzon-Villatoro was traveling eastbound on County Trunk X, when it left the road and plunged into the Wolf River.
According to witnesses, Monzon-Villatoro and her 1-year-old son Dylan were trapped inside the car as it floated down river and began sinking below the Northport Bridge.
Two men traveling opposite directions saw the aftermath of the crash.
Tony Tomaro of Manawa was traveling westbound on County X when he saw a big splash.
“As I got across the bridge I saw a lady and a man running across the road and I knew something bad happened,” said Tomaro.
“I pulled over and I just ran,” he said.
At the same time Zach Schendel of New London was traveling through Northport on Broadway Street about a block from County X when he saw a big cloud of dust.
“I said to myself, I think there was just an accident.”
As he pulled up to the stop sign he saw a woman cross the road.
“She was screaming, ‘Somebody just drove off the road. She’s in the water,’” Schendel said.
He drove his motorcycle to the bridge and he could see the car right away.
He immediately parked and jumped the guardrail.
“I just ran down the embankment as fast as I could,” said Schendel.
“I could see the mom and the kid in the back window.”
There was little time to think.
“Tony was already out there in the water trying to get in the car and he couldn’t,” said Schendel.
The car was floating farther downstream and sinking fast.
Schendel remembers thinking he needed something to break the window, but it happened so fast he couldn’t recall the moment he picked up a stone from the bank before diving into the water.
Tomaro, who was exhausted, saw Schendel grab the rock from shore before jumping in.
“I swear to God he swam like an Olympic swimmer,” said Tomaro. “I don’t know how he swam that fast with a rock in his hand.”
Tomaro estimated the car landed near the middle of the river when it first hit the water and began floating downstream.
“The current right there in that spot is no joke,” said Tomaro.
Both men are avid fishermen and are familiar with the swift currents and deep water of the area.
Car disappears under water
Both men still envision in their minds the moment the car disappeared.
“I don’t know how far I was, I was maybe about half way there, and just the back window and trunk were out of the water. Then, a whole bunch of bubbles came out of that car and that car just sank,” said Schendel.
He was telling himself, “just push, push, push”.
“By the time I got there the car was completely under water. I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to find it. It’s a black car and the water is murky,” Schendel said. “I was just lucky I think. I pulled up to where the car was and I dove down and ran straight into it. I could hardly see the car at all. Just a little bit of the glass.”
Schendel said beat on that back window with the rock.
When the widow finally broke a bunch of items came rushing out of the car, but there were no people at first.
Schendel said the woman finally emerged out the window with the child in her arms.
“I just grabbed her and baby and just started working my way to shore,” Schendel said.
Monzon-Villatoro was in a panic struggle.
“At one point it just became too difficult to carry both of them and there was no way all three of us were going to make it back to shore,” said Schendel. “I had to let her go.”
Tomaro then arrived and took over assisting with the mother as Schendel finished bringing the child to shore.
Both Monzon-Villatoro and her child escaped serious injury.
Driver faces charges
According to the Aug. 7 criminal complaint, Monzon-Villatoro admitted to drinking and speeding prior to the crash.
She faces one count of second-degree reckless endangerment, felony bail jumping, speeding in excess of 35 mph, operating while suspended and failure to keep a vehicle under control.
On Feb. 24, she was charged in Waupaca County with possession of methamphetamine and released on a $1,000 signature bond.