TAMPA — A woman accidentally drove into the Hillsborough River on Wednesday night and drowned, authorities said.
Migdalia Mendoza, 51, of Thonotosassa was driving to a church event at a friend's house when she got lost, according to Tampa police. Mendoza was on the phone with a friend as she drove through Lowry Park on N Boulevard. The phone call abruptly ended when Mendoza said she was lost, she was in the water and she needed help, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.
Mendoza had accidentally driven down a boat ramp in the city park near the Lowry Park Zoo, and her car quickly sank.
Someone across the river saw the car go in and called 911 about 7:30 p.m., Davis said. Two officers arrived within five minutes, stripped down and dove in.
The officers found the car but were unable to get to Mendoza. They called the Tampa police dive team, and divers pulled Mendoza from the car. It was unclear how much time elapsed before Mendoza was pulled from the water.
Tampa Fire Rescue crews tried unsuccessfully to revive her at the scene, Davis said. Mendoza was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
One of the few light posts at Lowry Park is right by the boat ramp. It was raining when Mendoza drove into the river.
Mendoza's friends and family huddled near a van and a pickup truck in the park as they awaited word Wednesday night. A police officer pointed at one man and motioned for him to come forward. The officer said a few words to the man, who then walked back to the group and collapsed to his knees.
Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.