Man Pulled From Submerged Van Dies

A man who, along with his wife, was pulled out of a van that crashed into San Diego Harbor earlier this week has died.

Vista resident Robert Johnson, 62, died Thursday night at the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, according to the Medical Examiner's Office.

His wife, Margaret Johnson, 52, was taken to the same hospital and remains in critical condition, a hospital official said.

Margaret Johnson was driving the Dodge Caravan around 11 p.m. Monday when, for unknown reasons, she failed to turn when approaching a "T” intersection on Harbor Island Drive, sending the vehicle plunging into the bay, said San Diego Harbor Police officials.

The only visible sign of the van in the water was the headlights, still on underwater.

Two of the officers who responded are certified divers but didn't have time to gear up. They jumped in anyway and pulled the couple from the water.

The water was 58 degrees. It was dark and the van was 12 feet deep in murky water -- a cold and treacherous rescue for harbor police wearing only their uniforms.

"They immediately jumped into the water and swam out to where it was and dove down to the vehicle," said Sgt. Dave Fouser with San Diego Harbor Police. "They broke one of the windows out and extracted the female driver from the driver's seat."

"They didn't have any lights with them or anything. So they're basically doing everything by feel."

Officers estimate the couple was underwater between 5 and 10 minutes.

Margaret Johnson was found near the driver's seat and her husband was in the rear of the vehicle. Both were unconscious when pulled to shore, harbor police officials said.

"The male being in the back of the vehicle leads me to believe he had unstrapped his seatbelt and was trying to get out but was unable to do so," said Fouser.

Nearly half a dozen divers joined the search -- but there were no other victims.

Contact Us