Topeka As Ken Fergel struggled to keep his mouth above the freezing cold water of a pond where his car had landed upside down, he was confident he would survive. The 80-year-old farmer from Shawnee County was right, thanks mostly to Topeka police officers Aaron Jones and Scott McEntire, who climbed down a 15-foot embankment, jumped into the icy pond and pulled Fergel out of a broken window.
Fergel was in satisfactory condition Wednesday at Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka, where he was treated for hypothermia and other injuries. And the two officers are being called heroes by their supervisors.
His problem began Monday night, when he lost control of his car on slick streets in Topeka and it plunged down the embankment, landing on its top in about 3 feet of cold water. Temperatures at the time were hovering around 20.
Fergel was trapped, cold and struggling to keep his head above the water, he told The Topeka Capital-Journal. He was lying sideways and was unable to free himself from his seatbelt. He said he thought he was in the water for at least 10 minutes before help arrived.
"I was thinking, 'I've got to get out of here real quick,'" Fergel said. Still, he said: "I didn't ever think that I wasn't going to get out. I was pretty sure I was going to get out of there some way."
Alex Schaaf, a 24-year-old Topeka man who was behind Fergel's vehicle, saw the wreck and called 911.
When the officers got to the car, Jones was able to crawl through a broken back window after McEntire got Fergel's seat belt off of him.
Fergel said the officers had "a terrible time" fighting slick conditions to get him up the creek bank because it was so tall and steep.
By the time he was loaded into a waiting ambulance, "I was freezing really bad," he said.
The Topeka police department on Tuesday praised the two officers, who recently returned to active duty after being involved in a Nov. 24 shooting of a man who pulled a gun on them during a police chase.
Sgt. Jeff Whisler, the police supervisor on the scene, said Fergel probably wouldn't have survived if the officers and Schaaf had not worked together to help.
"The officers did a commendable job," Whisler said. "When those officers went down, it was pitch black."
McEntire and Jones said they were just glad the wreck had a positive outcome.