Rescuer: People inside sinking van "were frozen with fear"

- Hearing Tim Cobb recall his efforts to help rescue two people from a sinking van off a jetty in Venice is chilling.

"They were frozen with fear, but they were trying to get out. I want the family to know they did everything to try and get out."

Police say the vehicle left the roadway Monday afternoon, struck a park bench, stopped, then backed up and continued forward, going into the rocks and then into the water. A police officer and some bystanders jumped into the water to get them out.

It unfolded within minutes, but Cobb said it felt much longer.

"We heard the crash. I didn't really know what I was looking at," Cobb said. "It was the most disappointing thing I've ever gone through in my life. It felt like an hour by the time the van actually went down. It was heart wrenching, frustrating. I really thought I could do something to help."

But for reasons Venice police are still trying to determine, the two people in the van were unable to be rescued.

The driver, 64-year-old Carol Hayden, and her father, 88-year-old Eugene didn’t make it out.

A bystander recorded video from the south jetty. It’s not being used by Venice police as evidence in the case.

In the video, Cobb can be seen diving from a boat into the water. Two others were already at the van and one used a hammer to break the back driver’s side window. After Cobb enters the water, he can be heard yelling – asking for something to break another window.

WATCH: Rescuers try to reach people trapped in van

Cobb said he made eye contact with Eugene.

"He was pulling on the handle. I had both of my feet up against the van trying to get the door open, but with thousands of pounds of water pressure it just wouldn't budge," Cobb said.

Meanwhile, the outgoing tide pulled the van out into the Gulf of Mexico as it sank.

Several hours later, police were able to locate the vehicle and activate the airbags to help pull it from the water.

In a press conference Tuesday, police commended those who jumped into hazardous conditions to try and save lives. Cobb was still trying to process what happened.

“It’s a little hard to wrap your head around that when you see something like that happen," Cobb said. 

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