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Woman dies in drowning after crash


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A two-vehicle wreck led to the drowning death of a North Vernon woman.

Deborah J. Shelton, 54, had to be cut from the seat of her vehicle Wednesday after it wound up in a pond off State Road 7 in Geneva Township.

She was pronounced dead at the scene after attempts to save her failed.

An autopsy conducted Thursday showed Shelton died of fresh-water drowning, according to Alden Rudicel, Jennings County deputy coroner.

The incident began about 12:55 p.m. Wednesday when police responded to a report of a wreck on State Road 7 just north of County Road 700W, according to a report from Maj. Jerry Shepherd.

Investigators said Shelton was driving a 1990 Ford Explorer north when she slowed to turn left into a driveway. Another adult and two small children were passengers.

As Shelton slowed, her vehicle was struck from behind by a 2004 Buick sport utility vehicle driven by April M. Sidwell of Columbus, Shepherd said.

When the first officers arrived, they found Sidwell’s “heavily damaged” vehicle and several people, including children, with injuries, Shepherd said.

The impact of the wreck caused Shelton’s vehicle to leave the east side of the roadway, travel across a field, go into a pond and sink, police reported.

The passengers in Shelton’s vehicle were able to get out, but Shelton was still strapped into her car with her seat belt when Indiana State Police troopers went into the water to save her, Shepherd said.

Officers cut the belt and pulled Shelton to the surface. They administered CPR but were unable to revive her.

The passengers in Shelton’s vehicle, Sidwell, and the four children in her vehicle — an 11-year-old, a 9-year-old and two 2-year-olds — all were treated by Rescue 20 personnel before being taken to the emergency room at St. Vincent Jennings Hospital in North Vernon, Shepherd said.

He said State Road 7 was closed for about two hours as officers investigated.

First responders from the Geneva Township Fire Department assisted county Officer Mike Mowery at the scene.

Others assisting were Shepherd, Sheriff Steve Hoppock, Lt. Brian Talkington, Officer Wes Thayer, and state troopers Derek Simpson, Dave Owsley and Rick Hewitt.

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