“He kind of yelled out and flailed his arms, and he passed out,” recalls Janet Hogan. The 74-year-old Walnut Creek woman is the mother of TIm Hogan and the lone survivor of the April 11 crash that killed Tim, 40, of San Diego, and his father, Janet’s 79-year-old husband, James Hogan.
Janet Hogan was telling her story Thursday to reporters at a Concord fire station. She has recovered physically from the ordeal of being swept several miles downstream, and of almost drowning. And while she’s devastated at the loss of her husband of 43 years and one of her two sons, she said she was grateful to be alive.
She said that stormy Sunday evening, she, her husband and son were on their way to dinner in downtown Walnut Creek, heading north on San Miguel Road towards Mt. Diablo Boulevard. Tim was driving his parents’ Honda Accord. Police say the crash occurred at 6:15 p.m. around the time a downpour of rain was soaking the city.
After Tim Hogan passed out, Janet says she tried to pull her son’s foot off the accelerator while her husband grabbed for the steering wheel.
But it was too late. The car crashed through the fence where Mt. Diablo Boulevard crosses the creek, just across the street from the downtown Safeway. The car turned over and landed upside down in the water.
Janet Hogan, an experienced swimmer, did what she had to do. She could see that her husband was bleeding from the head. She grabbed him, and pulled him out of the car. He was immediately swept away with the current. Minutes later, he was seen floating upside down in the water. She tried to grab her son, but he was strapped into the car, with his seatbelt still on.
The strong current of the 50-degree water started to pull her downstream, too, and she knew she could not help her son.
The water carried her several miles north. For about two miles, she managed to keep her head above water and call to some kids along the waterway to call 911. She could see fire rescue personnel throw ropes to her. “The first one I missed, the second one I missed.” She heard a rescue helicopter and saw police officers on the bridges: “I knew help was on the way.”
Her saviour came near Bancroft Road and Treat Boulevard in the form of a Contra Costa County Fire District engineer, Dave Manzeck, who was dangling from a California Highway Patrol helicopter. In a dramatic rescue, he pulled her from the water, after she was started to go under.
“He’s my saviour for ever more,” says Janet Hogan about Manzeck.
Tim Hogan was found strapped in the car later that evening and pronounced dead. The exact nature of his medical emergency is pending.
James Hogan disappeared in the cold, choppy current; his body was found three days later near Buchanan Field in Concord.