Man drives into river, dies

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 19, 2002

A South Webster man died after he drove his blue station wagon into the Ohio River at the Ironton Boat Ramp at approximately 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Larry K. Barker, 39, the driver of the Subaru GL, was transported to Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital after being pulled from the river at 4:40 p.m.

Paramedics and doctors worked on him for a couple of hours, but Barker died at the hospital Wednesday evening, Detective Tim Wilson of the Russell, Ky., Police Department said.

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"The case is still under investigation," he said. "We are unable to determine if it was intentional or accidental at this time."

Wilson said responding officers searched the vehicle, but did not find anything that appeared directly relevant to the case.

At the time he was pulled from the vehicle, he was still alive, Patrolman Ned Crisp of the Russell Police Department said.

"The survival rate goes up with the colder temperatures because it slows the body functions," he said. "The emergency workers are not taking anything for granted."

A call was originally placed around 2:55 p.m. that witnesses had seen a vehicle enter the water. Ironton Police Chief Bill Garland said witnesses stated that the vehicle came straight through the flood wall opening and drove directly into the water at a high rate of speed -- in such a way that it appeared that it was intentional.

However, witnesses said that the driver allegedly attempted to exit the vehicle after it entered the water

The vehicle was last sighted about 60 yards down river before it became submerged.

Divers from the Flatwoods Fire Department's dive team and members of the Worthington Fire Department searched the water for nearly an hour before the vehicle was located and pulled from the water.

Emergency crews from nearly a dozen agencies in Kentucky and Ohio responded, including police and fire departments from Russell, Flatwoods, Ironton and Worthington.