SUTTON, W.Va. – A failed water rescue of a mother and daughter in Braxton County that ended in a fireman’s death has been ruled a murder-suicide by investigators.
According to a release from the Office of the West Virginia State Fire Marshal, at around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, a vehicle drove into the Elk River in Braxton County that was carrying 42-year-old LaTonya Bell of Clevland Ohio and her 8-year-old daughter Havana Pipkins.
An off-duty Gassaway Volunteer fireman, John Forbush, heard his department was dispatched and responded directly to the scene. When Forbush saw that there were people trapped in the submerged car, he immediately jumped into the river to rescue them. Firefighter Forbush was unable to free the mother and daughter from the car; he died during the attempted rescue at the age of 24.
All three victims were recovered from the Elk River Sunday afternoon and sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
After an investigation by the Braxton County Sheriff’s Office, it was determined that Bell intentionally drove her car into the river, killing herself and her child. The incident has been ruled a murder-suicide.
“John D. Forbush selflessly gave his life for strangers in need,” said the release from the State Fire Marshal. “He proudly served the Gassaway community for 4 years as a volunteer firefighter. His service to the community will forever be remembered.”
Summersville Fire Department also responded to the scene with Dive Rescue resources, according to the release.