A 26-year-old woman in a car whose brakes failed nurtled down Wisconsin Avenue NW at high speed for about 1 1/2 miles yesterday, miraculously avoiding collisions until the auto plunged into the Potomac River, police said.
As the vehicle began to sink in 35 feet of water, the woman, identified as Liliana Drouet, of 6166 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, climbed out a window and fought her way to the surface.
Seeing her thrash about, a 22-year-old Washington man who had come to a nearby construction site in search to work tore off his jacket, kicked off his shoes and, according to police, jumped into the murky water.
The man, identified as Issac Prince, of 2351 Champlain St. NW, swam out to the woman, about 60 feet off shore. Then, with the woman grasping his legs, he turned around and towed her to safety.
Second district police officer John D. Blackmon, 31, said he first saw the car, a 1975 Chevrolet, weaving south on Wisconsin Avenue near W Street NW about 9:55 a.m.
The driver waved an arm toward him and he pulled his scoutcar alongside. Through her window, he said, the driver told him that she had lost her brakes and could not stop. At that point, he said, her car was traveling about 50 miles an hour and accelerating.
Blackmon said he shouted out to her to apply the handbrake and put the car in a lower gear. He said he heard a sound of clashing gears, but the car did not stop, and he was forced by traffic to fall in behind it.
Following the woman's car closely, Blackmon switched on his flashing lights and sounded his siren in an effort to provide some warning as the two vehicles hurtled through busy Georgetown traffic.
Crossing all the Wisconsin Ave intersections unscathed, the cars rolled across M Street and continued downhill until they passed under the Whitehurst Freeway, and approached the river bank.
Blackmon stopped, but the woman's car kept going, hit a pile of dirt, flew up onto the air, and landed in the river.
After emerging from the river, the woman and her rescuer, whose last job reportedly ended last week, were treated for exposure at George Washington University hospital and released.
Divers raised the car from the river at about 3 p.m. Police said they were unable to strat the engine and could not test the car's power brakes.
Neither Prince nor Drouet could be reached for comment last night. However friends described her as shaken. CAPTION:
Picture, Crowd watchers wrecker remove car that careered down M Street into Potomac, By Larry Morris - The Washington Post