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Cleveland woman drives into West Virginia river with 8-year-old daughter in murder-suicide, authorities say

by May 3, 2022Local News

SUTTON, West Virginia — A Cleveland woman and her daughter drowned Sunday after their SUV ended up in a river in what authorities believe was a murder-suicide.

A volunteer firefighter also died in an attempt to rescue Latonya Bell, 42, and her daughter Havana Pipkins, 8, from the vehicle in the Elk River, according to the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office. John Forbush, 24, of Gassaway, W.Va., also drowned.

“Yesterday a young man gave his life in his attempt to save a mother and child from a submerged car in the Elk River,” a statement on Facebook from the Braxton County Office of Emergency Services says. “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 it’s dangerous and, yes, sometimes tragic.”

The crash occurred on State Route 4 at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the fire marshal’s office says. Forbush was working about a mile away and heard the call go over a radio and went to the scene of the crash.

Forbush radioed to dispatchers that there appeared to be victims inside the SUV, which was in the river. He jumped into the river but died in his attempts to get Bell and Pipkins out of the vehicle, the fire marshal’s office says. Reports say the water temperature was about 38 degrees.

“John D. Forbush selflessly gave his life for strangers in need,” the fire marshal’s office says in a news release.

Investigators say Bell intentionally drove into the river and that the death of her and her daughter have been ruled a murder-suicide. All three victims have been sent to the chief medical examiner in Charleston.

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