'We just couldn't break the window'

Posted Friday, Nov. 16, 2012  Print Reprints

Audio: "They lost control and they're in the water"

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FORT WORTH -- Two men tried frantically to rescue a woman and her toddler as their car sank into a southeast Fort Worth pond, repeatedly trying to smash the window with their fists as the trapped mother urged them on.

"Break the glass. Break the glass. Break the glass. Break the glass," the mother, Christina Williams, shouted, according to a recording of her 911 call released by Forest Hill police.

When that didn't work, said John Piszor, 20, of Grapevine, another passerby handed him a tool -- he thinks it was a car jack -- but it was too heavy to take into the pond.

"It was really dark, the water was really cold, and there wasn't much more we could do," Piszor said. "We just couldn't break the window."

In the end, no one could save Williams and her 22-month-old daughter, Tisiphone Rose Williams. They were submerged for several minutes before firefighters pulled them from the car, and they were pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Williams' car had clipped another car on the Southeast Loop 820 service road about 6:30 p.m. Thursday and then careened through an iron fence and into the large pond. The 36-year-old mother dialed 911 from her cell phone and pleaded for help, growing increasingly desperate as the car sank.

"Ma'am, my doors won't open and I've got a baby, and we're going underwater," Williams tells the Forest Hill dispatcher. "Hurry, get the police here.

"What do I do? We're going underwater."

The car "went out a little ways, floated a little and then went under," Fort Worth fire Capt. Tom Crow said.

On Friday, David Johnson, who identified himself as Christina Williams' common-law-husband and Tisiphone's father, visited the crash scene along with his mother.

Johnson described his wife, who worked for Delta Airlines call center, as "beautiful inside and out."

His mother, Ila Johnson, said her son and Christina Williams had lived with her in the Redwood Estates, a mobile home park not far from the crash site, before moving a year ago to a duplex close to where David Johnson works in Mansfield.

Ila Johnson said her son would drop off Tisiphone at her home before going to work in the afternoons and Christina Williams would pick the little girl up after her work was done.

"They had just left my house when the accident happened," she said in an email to the Star-Telegram.

Ila Johnson said her granddaughter loved to help her walk her Pomeranian, Sassie, each day.

"She would hold on to the leash and walk Sassie down the road and back with me while she smiled and laughed," Ila Johnson recalled. "She wasn't saying much yet, but sure knew the words, 'hi' and 'bye.'

The little girl loved to be read to and frequently carried around a Minnie Mouse doll, her grandmother said.

"She was a very loving child and loved by all who had the joy of meeting her," Ila Johnson said.

On her Facebook page, Williams said she graduated from Arlington Heights High School in 1997. She describes her daughter as "such a little ham." Amid several photos of Tisiphone, which begin shortly after her birth, is a picture of a locket with the words: "My little girl yesterday, my friend today, my daughter forever."

The pond is at Amelia Parc Senior Apartments, an upscale complex with a landmark clock tower near the mixmaster of East and Southeast Loop 820, Interstate 20 and the Mansfield Highway at the border of Fort Worth, Forest Hill and Kennedale.

Sgt. Cynthia Blake, supervisor of the traffic investigation unit, said witnesses told investigators that Williams was eastbound on Collett Little Road in a Kia when she sped through a stop sign.

"We don't know why she was speeding, and we'll never know that now," Blake said. "She was speeding and she just ran the stop sign, just plowed through the stop sign."

Blake said the Kia clipped the front right quarter of an Acura that was southbound on the service road.

In her 911 call, Williams gave no explanation for the wreck.

"I guess under the circumstance that was the last thing on her mind," Blake said.

The driver of the Acura called 911 after the crash.

"I was just in a car accident," she told the dispatcher. "A car pulled out in front of me. There's, like, a lake and they lost control and they're in the water.

"I don't know what happened. I hit my horn. I was on the access road and she just pulled out in front of me and I did everything I could not to hit her."

"Heartbreaking set of circumstances"

Piszor said he and his friend, Nathan Brown, 21, of McKinney were southbound on the access road when the crash happened in front of them. He said Williams' car started to spin and appeared to accelerate as it broke through the fence and entered the water.

The car ended up "a pretty good ways out there" in the pond, Piszor said.

Piszor said Brown immediately jumped in while Piszor called 911. He then joined Brown in the pond and tried to help break the windows.

It wasn't working so Piszor swam back to shore, got the heavy tool and tried, unsuccessfully, to swim back to the car with it.

"By that time, the front of the car was already pretty much submerged," he said. "... My friend said the woman inside was on the phone talking to 911."

Forest Hill police officers, the first to arrive, jumped in to try to save the occupants, Capt. Crow said. A Fort Worth Fire Department dive team eventually pulled the bodies from the car.

Forest Hill Police Chief Dan Dennis said four officers went into the pond. They came out shivering.

"This is hard on these guys," Dennis said. "They're cold, they're tired and it's a heartbreaking set of circumstances. Everybody's going to be hurting."

Lamorris Debouse, who lives in a neighboring apartment complex, said he watched the efforts.

"They brought the mother out and then the baby," he said.

Piszor said Brown suffered a few cuts during the attempted rescue. Piszor said he wasn't sure his friend wanted to talk about the incident.

"He's pretty torn up about the whole thing," he said.

Star-Telegram correspondent Bob Booth contributed to this report.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689, Twitter: @albranch1