GAITHERSBURG, Md. - An elderly man from Montgomery County is fortunate to be alive after he got lost and drove his car into a river.
At around 8:40 p.m. Wednesday, police received a call about a missing 72-year-old man from Silver Spring.
According to the missing man's wife, her husband, Shing Wong, had a medical appointment earlier in the day and never returned home.
Police did not know where he was, but Wong’s family said he had a cell phone and that may have saved his life. The Montgomery County Police Electronic and Technical Surveillance Unit started tracking Wong's phone and they got a hit on it 80 miles away all the way up in Aberdeen, Maryland.
Wong’s phone was showing him in the general area of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Harford County. He had apparently reached a dead end and drove 150 feet into Gunpowder River.
Police were able to reach Wong on the phone, but the 72-year-old was so disoriented that he was not able to tell officers exactly where he was. To further complicate things, the man's cellphone battery was dying.
Police said they then started looking at maps of the area to try to match the descriptions of the area Wong was able to describe to them, and eventually, they were able to locate his car.
Montgomery County Police Officer Jason Huggins was the first officer to reach Wong. He put on a wetsuit and went into the water to reach him.
Police said the water level was even with the driver's side window. Wong was cold, disoriented and told officers that his legs were numb and that he could not move.
“I unlocked the door, he had been in water we estimate for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours by the time we got to him,” said Officer Huggins. “His legs were pretty cramped up. He couldn't stand on his own. But lucky for me, he's a pretty light guy, so we just picked him up and walked 150 feet back to the dry land.”
Authorities said the temperature of the water at that time was only 52 degrees.
Police said this rescue was a team effort between Montgomery County police, Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Aberdeen Proving Ground Police and Fire and Rescue personnel.
Wong was taken to a hospital where he was treated for hypothermia. We are told his condition has improved at the hospital.