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FWC officers save woman’s life

By Staff | Aug 27, 2009

A 52-year-old Charlotte County woman whose car plunged into a canal is alive today because of the skill, training and quick thinking of two Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers.
It was FWC Officer Barry Shaw’s first day on the job, when he and FWC Officer Sam Cohl were in their patrol vehicle at the Port Charlotte Beach Complex on Harbor Boulevard. Around 10 p.m. Aug. 22, they saw a small silver vehicle heading in their direction. Suddenly, the vehicle stopped and made a fast U-turn into the boat trailer parking lot. The officers suspected the driver was trying to elude them and decided to investigate.
There was only one way in and out of the parking lot, but when the officers attempted to find the vehicle it looked as if it had disappeared without coming back out the same way it went in. Cohl and Shaw quickly checked the canal and found the car totally submerged. Shaw saw the taillights of the vehicle shining through the water.
Cohl immediately jumped into the canal and swam to the vehicle about 25 feet away. The car was resting on the bottom, six or seven feet down. Meanwhile, Shaw called dispatch for assistance.
“It was extremely dark and difficult to see anything. I knew I didn’t have much time,” Cohl said.
Cohl tried the driver’s side door; it was locked. He tried to tear off the sunroof. Finally, he discovered the driver’s side window was partially open and managed to push it down a few more inches.
He then dove underwater and reached through the window, feeling around for a body. Suddenly, he felt an arm, and feeling no seatbelt, he gave one good tug and pulled the woman’s seemingly lifeless body out the window and up to the surface.
He quickly swam the unconscious woman to the dock, and Shaw pulled her out of the water. The woman, Patricia Ann Mackew, 52, of 3303 Great Neck St., Port Charlotte, was not breathing and had no pulse.
The two officers then began abdominal thrusts and CPR, and were able to revive Mackew.
Emergency medical personnel arrived on scene and Cohl swam back to the sunken vehicle to make sure there were no passengers inside.
“This case reflects something I see all the time in FWC officers,” FWC law enforcement director, Col. Julie Jones said. “All police work requires courage and dedication, but FWC officers have to have an extra measure of something on top of that. Like the best officers in any agency, they have a special instinct that kicks in when human life is at stake. It’s called valor.”
Mackew was taken to Fawcett Memorial Hospital, where she was admitted to intensive care. As of Tuesday, she was speaking and doing well.
The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the accident.
Cohl and Shaw are back on the job. Cohl is an 11-year veteran of the FWC and Officer Shaw ? well, he had a very eventful first day as an FWC officer and looks forward to an exciting and challenging a new career.
“They are the kind of officers that make us all proud to be part of the FWC,” Jones said.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission