A jogger and a landscape worker who saw a car plunge into the Arizona Canal on Friday jumped into the cold, turbulent water and pulled out the motorist, who later died.
The dramatic scene unfolded about 8:30 a.m. when Mariano Catalino, 40, of Phoenix crashed his black Nissan Sentra through a barrier on North Granite Reef Road in Scottsdale and landed in the canal, police said.
Hector Garcas, a worker for T and T Lawn Service of Tempe, said he was landscaping at a nearby house moments earlier.
“We knew something was happening in the water,” Garcas said. “We ran to the canal and saw the car in it. You have to help people.”
Garcas and an unidentified jogger tried to get the man out of his car, but he panicked and the rescuers had to withdraw, police said.
The water was about 6 feet deep and “very cold,” Garcas said.
The man in the car lost consciousness, and moments later, the Samaritans were able to pull him out and bring him to the south bank of the canal, said Scottsdale Fire Capt. Gary Burns.
Garcas’ and the other man’s quick actions made it easier for rescue crews to get to the victim and try to resuscitate him, Burns said.
Fire crews then pulled the two rescuers out of the canal.
The jogger was treated for hypothermia at a hospital and released, Scottsdale Police Sgt. Mark Clark said.
Witnesses estimate Catalino was driving north about 35 to 40 mph when he drove through the barrier at the end of the 6600 block, so speed doesn’t appear to be a factor, Clark said.
Trevor Bayles, also a worker for T and T Lawn Service, said he called 911. He said he was sitting in his truck at Granite Reef and Lincoln Drive when he saw the car go through the barrier.
“It looked like he was going to make a U-turn, but he didn’t,” Bayles said.
“I saw the wood go up (from the barrier), and then I saw the splash — the car was almost completely submerged by the time we got there.
“The trunk was open, and stuff was floating out of it.”
Catalino was pronounced dead at 9:40 a.m. at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital.
The cause of death will be determined after an autopsy, Clark said.
Scottsdale fire crews, assisted by the Tempe Fire Department, pulled the car out of the water about three hours after the crash.
Burns said it was Scottsdale’s first canal crash fatality in several years.
The incident added to the worry of area residents who said cars plunging into the canal are a common occurrence because motorists speed down the road and don’t see the barrier, especially at night because it isn’t lighted.
“It’s sad,” said Ben Ramirez, who has lived at Lincoln and Granite Reef for 18 years.
“Sometimes people think Granite Reef is a racetrack.”
Pat Dodds, Scottsdale spokesman, said three crashes have occurred at that area of Granite Reef Road since 1992, but this was the first time a car drove into the canal.
In September, two cars ended up in the Arizona Canal near 64th Street and Thomas Road during what police described as a battle between immigrant smugglers and a man who was trying to rescue two kidnap victims.