A 21-year-old man died following an accident in a wooded area near the Des Moines River by the Great Ape Trust.
Police say Matthew Blackford was off-roading with some friends in a Jeep Cherokee when he got stuck in muddy pool of water.
“Probably two to three feet deep so not super deep. Not so deep that you couldn’t stand up in, but enough to cover the tail pipe of the car,” says Des Moines Police Sgt. Jason Halifax.
With water blocking the tail pipe, police say exhaust likely filled the Jeep as he tried to get out of the water.
“Three of the four got out of the vehicle. The driver, the deceased, stayed in the vehicle and was trying to free it. Kind of a rocking back and forth motion that you would typically do when a car is stuck,” says Halifax.
Possibly dazed and disoriented from carbon monoxide, as he went to get out, he fell into the water. Police say Blackford was under water for several minutes.
His friends called 911 and started CPR, but he couldn`t be saved.
“We tried. I lost my best friend in my arms,” says Anthony Barcelo.
Barcelo says he and Blackford were like brothers. Their group of friends is more like a big family. Blackford was a father to a little girl who just turned one.
“He was a great father,” says Barcelo.
Friends say Blackford loved his family and all things cars. Tears flowed freely as they remembered a friend they lost too soon.
“He would want everyone here to be strong. I know it’s soon, but we tried the best we could Matt. We love you,” says Barcelo.
An autopsy will determine how Blackford died, whether he drowned or died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The answer will provide little comfort to his loved ones. Tonight, they are holding a candlelight vigil for him at Gray’s Lake.