At least five people stopped to try and rescue a Lakeland man Wednesday who drove his truck into a pond at Saddle Creek Pond, and appeared to struggle to get out.
But the truck sank too fast and too deep.
Rescue crews later retrieved the body of Charles Custer a retired Polk County Sheriff’s Office civilian employee, who enjoyed driving to the lake to enjoy its beauty.
911 calls reveal some of the chaos that unfolded.
“I’m at Saddle Creek Park and this dude’s truck just went into the lake and he’s still in it,” one caller told a 911 dispatcher.
Investigators believe Custer was traveling west bound on Morgan Combee Rd when he veered into the pond.
At first witnesses thought he was ok — even telling them through an open window he was gathering his belongings, but could not get his buckle undone.
“We were driving by and we saw it sinking slowly,” the caller told 911. “He was sitting in it for awhile. I didn’t know what was going on. He just sank with it. He didn’t get out at all.”
By the time first responders arrived, the truck was submerged in 30 feet of water.
Regulars at the park say there’s a need for a guardrail because the edge of the road immediately runs into the pond. There is little to no shoulder.
“It needs a rail. It’s too dangerous, and then if you drive at night it’s really dangerous,” said Trinidad Reyna, who enjoys to fish at the lake.
Thursday afternoon, a representative with the county said they will look into adding a guard rail, however, there are several criteria that have to be met and a process must be followed.
It’s still unclear what caused Custer to run off the road.