A Ford Focus wound up underwater at the Ridley Township Municipal Marina late Saturday night and police were still searching Sunday for the man who drove it there, having escaped the car before it sank and fleeing on foot while urging bystanders to stop recording the drama on their cell phones and not to call 911, police said.
"He said, 'Oh man, I'm in trouble. It's my dad's car and I have a suspended license,' so he took off running," Ridley Township Detective Sgt. William Henderson recalled Sunday morning, quoting witnesses.
Police did not disclose the name of the suspected driver or where he's from, saying only that he is in his 20s. They planned to confirm his identity later Sunday, Henderson said, when officers show pictures to those who saw him get out of the car and water and then take off running north on South Swarthmore Avenue, vanishing into the night.
The excitement started around 9:45 p.m. when, witnesses told police, the Ford Focus occupied by only a driver stopped at a stop sign in the marina parking lot and then rolled straight into the water 30 to 50 feet away, Henderson said.
"He was probably on the phone or a little intoxicated," Henderson said to explain how the car wound up in a place better suited to boats and ducks.
It went into the water from a concrete ramp where boats put in, Henderson said. With no ladder there and high tide, a man helped pull the driver from the water, he said, as onlookers attending a birthday party at a restaurant there captured the activity on cell phones.
Dripping and agitated, the driver urged them to "put down your phones" and not call police, Henderson said.
"He just kept running," he said.
Police searched the surrounding neighborhood and checked at the home of the man's parents, where he is believed to also live, Henderson said. All came up empty.
Police were at the marina until 3 a.m., the Ford's retrieval delayed until Chester Police could assemble enough of its dive team to help get the vehicle hooked to a tow truck, Henderson said. He estimated that the water was about 10 feet deep when the car went in.
"It was totally submerged," Henderson said.
He said the man's father said "none of his sons" had permission to be driving the car. Police were fairly certain which one they were looking for, Henderson said, because "we know what son isn't calling the house or coming home. … I guess I understand why he hasn't."