A driver at Seapath Yacht Club in Wrightsville Beach lost control of a new luxury automobile on Saturday, sending the BMW plunging into the water and creating a public spectacle, while also avoiding any injury.
Matt Wild, co-owner of TowBoat U.S. Wrightsville Beach, said it took about five hours to lift and tow the late-model sedan, which still had temporary tags, from its watery parking spot in the marina behind the yacht club.
Wild said the man, who was 89 years old, mistook the accelerator for the brake, slamming his foot down to stop the car, instead sending it flying it off the cul de sac, barreling through a fence and plunging down more than 10 feet into the marina waters behind the yacht club. The car was rendered a total loss.
The car sped off the drive with such force that “all four tires hit at the same time,” Wild said, while the driver swam out of an open window, escaping injury and later retrieving a change of clothes from a boat he had docked nearby.
“It didn’t seem to bother him at all,” Wild said.
With the driver safe, the process of recovering the vehicle began at about 1:30 p.m., though Wild said the car provided a unique challenge for the tow boat crew, which had rescued vehicles that had slid down boat ramps, but never needed to recover and tow a car.
“It was such a weird thing, it had zero flotation. Boats are foam filled and have some buoyancy, but towing a car was like towing a lead weight,” Wild said. “It was hard to get it level enough, we towed it at less than 1 mph.”
The car was submerged, though the trunk was floating, when the tow crew arrived, Wild said. They attached airbags to each tire and began the slow tow, complicated by the narrow waterway in the marina, turning a 15-minute tow into more than one hour.
“It was tricky to go through, there were a lot of boats in the back corner,” he said.
The crew towed the car to the Wrightsville Beach wildlife ramp, where they pulled it out backwards. The luxury automobile, after having met its surprise early fate, was then towed to a salvage yard, Wild said.
Wild said the event drew the attention of onlookers, as a “ton of people” lined the paths along the waterway all the way to the boat ramp.
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