Fatal accident; SUV submerged in pond

Pond located off Interstate 295 and Philips Highway

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 55-year-old man is dead after his SUV ran off Interstate 295 and landed underwater in a retention pond near Philips Highway early Friday morning.

A Jacksonville Sheriff's Office dive team is searching the pond, but it appears only one person was in the vehicle when it went into the pond, estimated to be 15 to 20 feet deep. 

The Florida Highway Patrol as identified the victim as David Brown, of Jacksonville.

IMAGES: SUV drives into pond; divers find body

Witnesses told the FHP saw a silver Kia Sorento going north on I-295 leave the highway at the Philips Highway/U.S. 1 exit. No other vehicles were involved.

"The vehicle left the roadway... and basically drove straight off that ramp and into the lake," FHP Capt. Keith Gaston said. "The fact that you don't have any evasive action is what leads me to believe that the person probably had fallen asleep."

Just before 9 a.m., the vehicle, with the victim still inside, was pulled out of the pond.

With three cars in retention ponds -- two of them causing a death -- in the past couple of weeks, Channel 4 asked transportation officials if anything can be done to reduce the risk.

The pond was 60 feet down an embankment from the highway, and there is not a guard rail.  The Florida Department of Transportation a guard rail is not required there, but they will review the site to see if anything should be changed.

A pond off Beaver Street in LaVilla where a woman and child were pulled from their car after an accident also has no guard rail. 

Channel 4 safety expert Ken Jefferson, who rescued four people from a retention pond in 2002, said the best way to protect yourself is to know how to get out of a car in the water.

"Maintain your composure.  Try to open a door as quick as you can, because its going to take a few minutes for the car to sink into the water, depending on the depth of the retention pond," Jefferson said. "If there are children involved, you want to try and get the child out of the child restraint seat or seat belt ... and try to get the child out."