Illinois state troopers and firefighters were first to reach the scene and went into the water immediately to try and save the driver.
The accident happened about 10:00 a.m. Tuesday in Downers Grove, near the intersection of I-355 and I-88.
The 86-year-old victim's granddaughter said he was a wonderful father, husband, and grandfather. The Lombard man was driving the Ford Escort when witnesses noticed his vehicle swerved off the road and ended up in a retention pond on Ogden Ave.
"When the firefighters got on the scene, they saw that Illinois State Police were already in the water trying to effect a rescue, and upon that, our guys went to assist them and start working on retrieving the victim," said Downers Grove Fire Department Chief Jim Jackson.
The accident happened outside the window of the tollway headquarters. Three state troopers were the first to jump into the pond an attempt to rescue the victim.
"We jumped in because the vehicle was at the top of the water," said Illinois State Trooper William Aukstolis. "I could hear the driver and as we approached the vehicle, probably went down into the water, made several attempts, and as we were attempting, the Downers Grove Police and Fire Department came and we had to finally wait until scuba gear came to try to get the driver out of the vehicle."
The rescuers were all in the murky water for about 25 minutes.
"Once we got him out, we pulled him to the side and tried to resuscitate him, and then they took him to Good Samaritan hospital and I found out he died later," said Aukstolis. "None of us really hesitated. You just sort of do what you're trained to do, and, you know, I just wish it would have worked out better."
The victim was pronounced dead at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. In addition to state police troopers, five Downers Grove firefighters also jumped into the pond to help with the rescue. The rescuers were taken to the hospital for exposure to cold water during the rescue and were all released.
"They have done so many outstanding things all the time," said Chief Jackson. "I'm very proud of them."
Hours after the accident, salvage crews pulled the Ford Escort out of the retention pond.
Witnesses say that the victim's car appeared to be traveling at a high speed. They also said that he did not slow down as he hit the water, and that he ended up in the middle of the pond.