Woman drives car into Lake Pontchartrain to commit suicide; onlookers jump in and save her _lowres

Photo by Dan Shea, The Advocate -- from left Travis Cook from Reserve and Jared Valence from Boutte rescued a woman who drove her car off the Kenner Boat Launch into Lake Pontchartrain on Sunday evening.

As nearly 100 spectators looked on, a woman’s life was saved during a dramatic rescue after she drove her car into Lake Pontchartrain off the Kenner Boat Launch Sunday evening, according to the Kenner Police Department and several witnesses who were on the scene.

The woman, who remains unidentified but was described by police as being in her 40s or 50s and having “a history of mental health issues,” drove into the water about 5 p.m., according to Lt. Brian McGregor.

McGregor said the woman escaped the incident uninjured after two people dove into the water to save her. Both the Kenner Police Department and the area’s Levee District police responded, he added, and she was taken to a local hospital for an evaluation.

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Boutte resident Jared Valence was one of the rescuers, he told The New Orleans Advocate on-scene shortly after the incident happened. He was driving in his pick-up truck to the area near the dock, where his family was picnicking, when he saw the woman start to accelerate towards the water.

“She drove right in, and she tried rolling up the windows,” Valence said, adding that she told him she had just come from the hospital. “She just said, ‘I want to die, let me go.’ I said, ‘Not on my watch.’”

The other rescuer, Travis Cook, told The New Orleans Advocate that he jumped off a boat headed toward the dock to help save the woman from drowning.

“The only thing I could think about was going in to save her,” Cook said.

Both Cook and Valence said they helped keep pull the woman out of the water as she thrashed her arms and tried to get away. They then brought her ashore and covered her with a towel until help arrived, they said, as nearby picnickers watched.

“It was wild out there,” Valence added.