Linda Schoenholz, a 77-year-old Bunnell resident, died late Saturday night after driving her car into a retention pond off the Grand Reserve golf club in Bunnell, police report. Schoenholz was a resident of Grand Reserve since 2020.
The sheriff’s 911 center got a call at 10:01 p.m. about a “reckless” driver on the golf course. Bunnell Police Officer Alex Kilpatrick responded, and 10 minutes later found a sport utility vehicle–a 2021 white Honda–submerged near the 400 block of Grand Reserve Drive. Schoenholz lived at 107 Grand Reserve Drive.
“Its taillights were visible near the surface. The officer quickly stripped off his gun belt and entered the water alone in an effort to effect a rescue,” according to a Bunnell Police Department release.
Underwater, the officer broke a rear window using a punch device, but could not reach the occupant. Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies and Flagler County Fire Rescue paramedics arrived, dove in, and removed the woman, who was transported to AdventHealth Palm Coast, where she was pronounced deceased.
The Florida Highway Patrol responded and took over the investigation.
Kilpatrick took himself to the hospital for treatment. He had “multiple cuts on his hands from the glass after he punched the window with a device,” Bunnell Police Chief Dave Brannon, who was at the scene after the crash, said. “He had to clear the glass with his hands, he had nothing else on, and when I spoke to him he said the glass may have had some window film, window tint, so he felt it made it diff to get the glass out of the way.” Kilpatrick is among the new Bunnell Police Department’s class of new recruits hired within the past year.
John’s Towing, the Bunnell wrecker, pulled the vehicle out of the pond with its 50-ton Rotator Wrecker after the sheriff’s divers assisted in that operation as well.
“I was so impressed with our police chief driving all the way from DeLand in the middle of the night to come to the scene, drove through that bad weather,” John Rogers, the Bunnell commissioner and owner of the towing company, said. “It shows his professionalism.” Bunnell City Manager Alvin Jackson also reported to the scene to check on the operation. (Bunnell’s three towing companies are on a rotation, each called in turn by the Florida Highway Patrol. It was John’s Towing’s turn last night.)
The crash recalls a fatality resulting from similar circumstances when 77-year-old Shirley Nethery died on a December night in 2014 after driving her car off a boat ramp in the Hammock. In that incident, Nethery had been on Pamela Parkway, a narrow, unlit road that curves just before the boat ramp, but at the time had no signage and no clear delineations. Nethery kept going straight.
Saturday night’s fatality is the 11th road-related fatality in Flagler County this year.