Robert (Hawkeye) Jacobs, 64, of Oak Bluffs received a hero’s greeting from a few of his friends at the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby on Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Jacobs was honored for saving the life of a 22-year-old woman who was driving a car that went off the Big Bridge in Oak Bluffs in the wee hours of Friday morning.
Mr. Jacobs was presented with his first Vineyard cell phone at derby headquarters, on the Edgartown waterfront as he posed for pictures with representatives from the derby, state police and Edgartown police.
He could have used the cell phone last Friday morning, soon after midnight. Mr. Jacobs was the first on the scene and helped pull Ashley Peters from the water after the car she was driving in plunged into the channel. Mr. Jacobs also made a valiant effort to wave to passing motorists for help.
“He saved my life,” said Miss Peters, also of Oak Bluffs. “Had he not been there, I do not know where I would be right now,” she said.
It was after midnight on Friday morning when Mr. Jacobs was bait fishing on the Sengekontacket side of the Big Bridge, also called the American Legion Memorial Bridge.
At shortly after 12:17 a.m., he said, “I heard a crash. It was metal . . . I saw a car going down the rocks [into the water] . . . It landed almost right in front of me.”
Mr. Jacobs said he rushed down to the rocks and shouted at the occupant of the car. The windows were closed. “I got as close as I could,” he said, without stepping into the fast moving current.
“It was dark. There was water all around the car. I started yelling, can you hear me? Can you hear me?”
He got back up on the bridge and tried to flag down two oncoming cars with no luck. He then went back to the edge of the channel and again called to the occupant of the car, a silver 2006 Saturn Ion.
Mr. Jacobs said he saw Miss Peters’ hand come out the window. “Then I saw her head,” he said.
She pulled herself out and stood up next to the car. The water level was up to her chest, Mr. Jacobs said. In that instant Mr. Jacobs said he watched as the car moved forward and sank to the bottom of the channel.
Mr. Jacobs said Miss Peters stepped towards him. “The car was gone, but she was able to walk toward me. I grabbed her arm and got her on a rock,” he said. “She was shivering.”
At that point, Mr. Jacobs flashed his light at deputy sheriff Lieut. Eric Bettencourt who was headed home after work. Lieutenant Bettencourt then used his police radio to summon more help.
Miss Peters was taken to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and then placed under arrest and released on bail. She was charged with drunken driving, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, no license in possession and speeding.
The vehicle was removed from the channel by the Oak Bluffs fire department dive team in the early morning hours.
On Tuesday afternoon, she and her mother, Melissa Peters, met with Mr. Jacobs to thank him for his efforts. “My family is thankful I am alive. I am just so fortunate that he was the fisherman there,” said Miss Peters, a 2011 graduate of Emerson College and a 2007 graduate of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
Ed Jerome, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, said he was struck by the story of the rescue by a fisherman he has known for years. Mr. Jacobs is a well-known participant in the annual fall derby, Mr. Jerome said. As an avid angler, his enthusiasm for fishing has earned him a number of awards through the years.
In presenting the cell phone on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Jerome said, “Hawkeye . . . was at the right place at the right time and he did the right thing.”
Gazette reporter Sara Brown contributed to this story.