Volunteer Firefighter Drowns Trying to Save Mother Who Intentionally Drove Into River With 8-Year-Old Daughter

volunteer firefighter
John Forbush.GoFundMe

The firefighter was trying to save a mother and child in a freezing river when he went under and didn't come back up.

A mother intentionally drove into a river with her 8-year-old daughter, killing herself, her child and claiming the life a volunteer firefighter who jumped into the frigid water trying to save them, authorities said.

West Virginia volunteer John Dale Forbush was 24, and leaves behind a 1-year-old daughter and a partner, officials said.

LaTonya Bell, 42, and her daughter Havana Pipkins, 8, were pulled from the Elk River, but were pronounced dead at the scene. 

"An investigation into this incident by the Braxton County Sheriff’s Office has revealed that Ms. Bell intentionally drove her vehicle into the Elk River and has been ruled a murder/suicide,” the state Fire Marshal’s Office said in statement Monday night.

Forbush was about a mile away when a call came in Monday saying a vehicle with people inside had gone into the river, authorities said. Forbush rushed to the site, and reported he was going into the water.

Five others also arrived on the scene and entered the river. 

Tom Skeens, a friend of Forbush also rushed to help. He said the river was freezing and that his friend may have been paralyzed by the icy cold.

“The water temperature was probably about 38 degrees. I’d say it was hypothermic shock because a bystander said he heard John yell he didn’t think he was going to be able to make it back and then they lost sight of him,” Skeens told West Virginia's MetroNews.

“John D. Forbush selflessly gave his life for strangers in need. He proudly served the Gassaway community for 4 years as a volunteer firefighter. His service to the community will forever be remembered,” the fire marshal's office said.

John Forbush - Facebook

A GoFundMe account has been established to help Forbush's family.

"Help give an amazing firefighter who lost his life in the line of duty, John Forbush, the funeral he deserves. As well as help his spouse and 1-year-old little girl get by for a little bit as she is a stay at home mom. With a house to care for, a daughter to take care of, and animals to feed and care for," the account's sponsor wrote. 

As of Tuesday, the site had raised more than $15,000.

"John did not enter that river knowing he would become a victim, he entered it knowing someone needed help. This is what volunteers train for, they know its dangerous, and yes sometimes tragic," the Braxton County Office of Emergency Services wrote on its Facebook page.

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