Indianapolis, Ind – The family of a teenage drowning victim says they are grieving his sudden death, but drawing strength through their faith in God.
18-year old Jachai Edwards died Saturday night after the SUV he was in rolled down an embankment into a retention pond at the Mariners Village Apartment on the west side if Indianapolis.
“The thing that’s giving our family peace is because we know he is at peace,” said Edwards’ sister Tauna Hill. “And we know that his ultimate goal in life was to make it to heaven.”
The accident that led to Edwards’ drowning is still under investigation, and parts of the situation remain unexplained.
According to Hill and other family members, Jachai Edwards and his 17-year-old girlfriend were in a red SUV, sitting in an inclined parking space next to one of the apartment complex buildings. They had spent the day at a family gathering at Hill’s apartment. Edwards’ girlfriend told the family the SUV’s engine was shut off, and the keys were out of the ignition, when the vehicle suddenly started rolling backward down the embankment to the pond. The girlfriend said she and Edwards tried unlocking the doors to get out, but the doors kept locking each time. The vehicle rolled backwards over a curb and several large rocks on the embankment before plunging into the water.
Once the SUV was in the water, the girlfriend told family members she and Edwards were both able to get out of the vehicle.
“She was swimming away until she turned around and seen that he wasn’t coming with her and he was just struggling,” said Edwards’ brother, Dorian Elzy. “And all she heard him say was I can’t swim.”
Edwards’ girlfriend said Jachai was able to get onto the roof of the SUV, but he drowned while trying to make it back to shore. Emergency divers located Edwards body roughly 40 minutes later under six or seven feet of water.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police investigators are still working to determine what caused the SUV to roll down into the pond. Mechanical failure is one possibility being explored.
But Jachai Edwards’ family believes it was simply his time to be called home by God.
“We don’t know why God does the things he does, when he does it,” Hill said. “But we know that there’s a reason for it all.”
Jachai Edwards was a Pike High School graduate who later attended IUPUI. Family members describe him as a kind hearted person who loved God, and everyone else he met.
“He would treat a homeless person no different than he would treat a millionaire,” Hill said.
He was also a budding musician who loved art.
“Jachai always had a passion for drawing,” Elzy said. “And he just recently started writing music. He wanted to be a Christian rapper so bad.”
While loved ones are mourning Jachai Edward’s death, they’re also leaning on faith and each other for strength. The family has started a GoFundMe page to help with expenses associated with Edwards’ death.
Captain Jerry Richert, Special Operations Commander for the Indianapolis Fired Department says his rescue team members are often called to accidents involving vehicles that have run into retention ponds in subdivisions and apartment complexes. Due to the sudden nature of these accidents, he urges all Hoosiers to take steps to prepare for the life-threatening situations.
“The thing is, when a car into the water, generally it’s not going to sink right away,” Richert said.
While Edwards and his girlfriend were able to get out of their vehicle, Richert says many victims are not able to do so. He says if you’re in a vehicle that is sinking in water, your first priority is to get out of it before calling 911. He said waiting for help to arrive while water slowly seeps into the vehicle is a common mistake.
“There are no air pockets in the car,” Richert said. “When the car does down and starts filling up with water, it’s going to fill all the way up to the ceiling.”
If the doors on your car won’t open, Richert says power windows will generally still work even after a car has been submerged in water.
“The power in your car will actually stay on for quite a while,” he said. “It’s surprising, but a lot of times when we go on vehicles, especially at night that have been submerged in the water, the windshield wipers and the lights will still be on under water.”
Richert recommends purchasing a windshield break hammer to store in your vehicle. Many of the pointed hammers have multi-use functions, including blades in case you need to cut a seatbelt or other obstruction. If you need to use such a hammer to break a window, Richert says you should hit it in the top corner of the windshield. He says hitting in the middle of the glass puts you at higher risk of sustaining serious cuts from the broken glass.