AMHERST — An alleged drunk driver escaped serious injury after flipping her vehicle into a swamp alongside Route 101 on Thursday, thanks in part to the efforts of two off-duty emergency responders.
Officer Ralph McClellan said he was en route to his part-time job with the Lyndeborough Police Department, heading west on Route 101 in Amherst just after 2 p.m. on Thursday, when he watched a vehicle in front of him lose control.
McClellan, 31, who also works as a patrolman in Dunbarton, said the red pick-up left the roadway, sheered a telephone pole in half, and landed upside down in a swamp near Walnut Hill Road.
The officer immediately stopped and rushed to help and found a woman semi-conscious in the overturned vehicle. The woman has been identified by Amherst police as Debbra Hebert, 44, of 14 Merrimack St. in Milford.
"She was partially submerged," said McClellan, and though he said the water wasn't very deep, it was "really mucky" and would have filled the cab of the truck had someone not intervened.
With the help of another off-duty emergency responder, firefighter James Moran of the Derry Fire Department, McClellan was able to cut the woman out of her seatbelt and was able to pull her from the vehicle.
"I was really surprised she was uninjured, especially after she severed that telephone pole in half," said McClellan.
The officer said he was traveling at around 50 mph and assumed Hebert was traveling at a similar rate of speed.
Though McClellan was not on duty, he said he stopped because he and all emergency responders have a responsibility to help whenever they can.
"You're there, you're trained, so you might as well help," he said.
"Officer McClellan is a dedicated and unselfish officer, who goes above and beyond the call of duty," said Lyndeborough police Lt. Rainsford Deware. "This incident is just one example of that. I am very proud that one of my officers had the courage to take the appropriate action and distinguish himself and the agency that he works for. Officer McClellan's extraordinary physical acts (helped) to save a life. If he and the off-duty fireman had not pulled that woman out of the car, who knows what type of injuries she would have sustained."
Following her rescue, Hebert was arrested by Amherst police and charged with her second offense of driving while intoxicated. She was later released on $1,200 personal recognizance bail. Hebert will be arraigned in court in Milford on Sept. 12.