SOUTH MAHONING TOWNSHIP — Three Kittanning-area men drowned early Sunday when they were trapped in a pickup truck that overturned in a pond on a country road about four miles northeast of Plumville, officials said.
Although their friends at the scene tried to break into the truck to rescue them and attempted to drag the pickup from the pond, it apparently had sunk too deep in mud and its doors were pinned shut, said Rick Stenman, a captain of the Plumville Fire Department.
It wasn’t until fire crews used their equipment to pull the truck free of the muck that volunteers were able to pull the men’s bodies from the cab.
Sean Johnathan Titus, 20, of Iron Bridge Road; Zane Michael McMillen, 19, of Ferne Drive; and Cody Allen Brink Douglas, 19, of Freeport Road, were pronounced dead at the scene by Indiana County Deputy Coroner Jerry Overman.
State police investigators learned the men had gathered with several friends on private property off McMillen Road about 10 p.m. Saturday, then left the area and returned shortly after midnight to rejoin them.
For unknown reasons, Trooper Jason Morgan reported, the men’s Mazda B2300 pickup ran off the dirt driveway and into the pond.
There was no structure on the land, only a travel trailer that may have been used as a hunting camp, Stenman said.
He said the pond appeared to have been manmade for retention, to catch drainage on the land.
Stenman said the driver may have been unfamiliar with the road. Police reported that Titus had been at the wheel.
“The driveway where the access road went up bears to the right but they went straight,” Stenman said. He theorized the driver didn’t realize he was off the road until they were almost upon the pond.
“When they realized they were almost on the breast of the dam, they cut the wheel to the right and it went into the water.”
Firefighters found the truck parallel to the edge of the water but Stenman said he didn’t know if the witnesses managed to move it at all.
“We found the vehicle submerged on its roof in about 4 feet of water,” Stenman explained. “When we pulled it closer to the shore, we lifted the cab enough that the firefighters were able to open doors and get victims onto the bank and attempt CPR.”
Citizens’ Ambulance Service paramedics also were on the way, but it was almost immediately clear that the efforts to revive the men would not work, he said.
The Indiana County 911 center first dispatched the Plumville fire department at 12:28 a.m. The fire crews reached the scene, one mile off Route 210, about 10 minutes later, according to Stenman.
He said it wasn’t clear how long after the accident the men’s friends phoned for help.
Alcohol was suspected as a factor in the incident, according to the Indiana County coroner’s office.
Coroner Michael Baker reported that the men were pronounced dead at 1:52 a.m. Their bodies were taken to Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown for autopsies and for blood and tissue tests.
Exams of two of the men — he didn’t say which — showed they died of freshwater drowning, Baker said Sunday evening.
“At least two of the families very generously agreed to organ/tissue donation,” Baker reported.
Funeral arrangements were to be handled by the Snyder-Crissman Funeral Home in Kittanning for Titus; the Bauer Funeral Home, Kittanning, for McMillen; and the Redman Funeral Home, Freeport, for Douglas.