Santee Fire Department truck
A Santee Fire Department truck. Courtesy of the city

A woman who escaped a wrecked SUV after it crashed into a drainage canal in El Cajon died after she was carried more than three miles downstream and eventually pulled out of the water in Santee, authorities said Wednesday.

The 68-year-old San Diego woman was in the front passenger seat of a 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe driven by a 71-year-old man when it crashed on westbound interstate 8 near Second Street around 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, California Highway Patrol Officer Travis Garrow said.

The driver lost control of the SUV for unknown reasons and it veered to the right before crashing into a metering light at the Second Street onramp to westbound I-8, Garrow said.

The SUV then went down an embankment and through a chain link fence before falling into Forester Creek, which had heavy water flow at the time from falling rain.

Both occupants of the vehicle were uninjured in the crash, but the SUV was carried downstream before it became wedged at an undercrossing near First Street, the officer said.

Investigators determined that after the vehicle stopped, the woman was able to free herself from the SUV, but she slipped and fell into the fast-moving water, Garrow said.

Crews from Heartland Fire & Rescue, San Miguel Fire, Santee Fire and Lakeside Fire were called to the scene around 6:40 p.m. Tuesday to help with the rescue.

Rescue personnel located her within 20 minutes and set up multiple points along Forester Creek to attempt to pull her from the water, Heartland Fire & Rescue spokesman Sonny Saghera said.

Crews got her out of the water where the canal crosses Prospect Avenue in Santee, roughly 45 minutes after the initial crash, Saghera said.

The woman was unconscious when she was taken out of the water and was transported to Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, where she was pronounced dead, Garrow said. Her name was withheld pending family notification.

–City News Service