Volunteer Firefighter Dies Trying to Save Mother who Intentionally Drove into River with 8-Year-Old Girl

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A mother deliberately drove her daughter 8 years old into a river. She also killed her child. Authorities said that the volunteer firefighter who tried to save her children from the cold water was also killed.

Officials say John Dale Forbush, West Virginia volunteer, was 24. He leaves behind a 1 year-old daughter with her partner and another, officials added.

LaTonya, 42, and Havana Pipkins (8 years old) were pulled from Elk River. They were both pronounced dead on the spot. 

“An investigation into this incident by the Braxton County Sheriff’s Office has revealed that Ms. Bell intentionally drove her vehicle into the Elk River and has been ruled a murder/suicide,” the state Fire Marshal’s Office said in statement Monday night.

Forbush was about a mile away when a call came in Monday saying a vehicle with people inside had gone into the river, authorities said. Forbush rushed to the site, and reported he was going into the water.

Five others also arrived on the scene and entered the river. 

Tom Skeens, a friend of Forbush also rushed to help. He said the river was freezing and that his friend may have been paralyzed by the icy cold.

“The water temperature was probably about 38 degrees. I’d say it was hypothermic shock because a bystander said he heard John yell he didn’t think he was going to be able to make it back and then they lost sight of him,” Skeens told West Virginia’s MetroNews.

“John D. Forbush selflessly gave his life for strangers in need. He proudly served the Gassaway community for 4 years as a volunteer firefighter. His service to the community will forever be remembered,” the fire marshal’s office said.

John Forbush – Facebook

A GoFundMe account has been established to help Forbush’s family.

“John Forbush was an incredible firefighter. Help him get the funeral he deserves. His spouse and his 1-year-old girl need your support. There is a house to keep, a child to look after and animals to care.” the account’s sponsor wrote. 

As of Tuesday, the site had raised more than $15,000.

“John did not go into that river thinking he would be a victim. Instead, he went in knowing someone needed assistance. This is what volunteers train to do, they know it’s dangerous and can sometimes be tragic,” Braxton County Office of Emergency Services wrote. Facebook page.