Henry Laseke, 89, identified by neighbors as a widower who lived alone in the subdivision on Cortland, was in pronounced dead at a local hospital just before 10 a.m., hospital officials said. Police are investigating whether he hit the acceleration when he meant to hit the brakes, striking a building and then going into the pond around 7 a.m. in the 1500-block of Courtland Drive.
On Thursday afternoon, investigators say Laseke may have been trying to back into his garage but went forward instead. His SUV hit an electrical transformer and then dove into the pond in back of a townhouse complex in the northwest suburb.
"I was just getting ready for work, I heard some crazy noises- smash and crashing, a tidal wave in your pond," Rick Geiger said. Geiger jumped into the pond and tried to help the man, but could not break the window on the SUV. Rescuers did manage to break the driver's side window, allowing another diver to pull the widower to dry land.
"You could tell he was elderly, he was in shock. I tried to get him to acknowledge me, but he was frozen," Geiger said.
"He's kind of a quiet man, and he lives alone, but you know, I'll see him outside once in a while and we'll talk," said Kay Sullivan, Laseke's neighbor.
Paramedics performed CPR on Laseke but he was pronounced dead at Northwest Community Hospital. They believe he was trapped underneath the water in the SUV for about 10 minutes. The man's gray SUV was towed to the surface around 7:45 a.m.
"There is no foul play suspected at this time, and we're still waiting on preliminary results from our accident reconstruction team and the Cook County Medical Examiner's office to determine a cause of death," said Commander Andrew Whowell, Arlington Heights Police Department.
Meanwhile a neighborhood now mourns especially Rick Geiger who simply says he wishes he could have done more.
"We know he was still alive, our hope was that we'd have success in getting him out. Nobody had that success," said Geiger.
Police say the victim did have a valid driver's license and are awaiting autopsy results.