Greenwood residents frustrated by lack of action on retention ponds

Two years ago an Iraq war vet drowned after driving into this retention pond.
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Two people drowned over the weekend from separate crashes after their cars went into retention ponds.

Alexander Cottom's SUV went into the Sandpiper Lakes subdivision in Westfield on Saturday night while driving to meet his fiance and their children. Witnesses tell police they saw an SUV make a sharp turn into the pond, but no one saw the 22-year-old driver climb out. Cottom was the only person in the car and police believe the crash was an accident.

In Jennings County, it's still not known why the van of a 61-year-old Seymour woman plunged into a pond. It happened on Friday night along county road 715 South. Investigator say Elsie Day got trapped and was unable to escape.

The issue of retention pond safety has been discussed for a long time in Greenwood, which has 15 retention ponds it sees as accidents waiting to happen. Some have already claimed lives.

Two ponds are in Patricia Brown's neighborhood.

"They need to do something with all these retention ponds here," said Brown.

Two years ago, Brown's neighbor, Sgt. Herkimiah Wimbush, missed the turn and plunged into a frigid pond. The Indiana National Guardsmen died.

So did 23-year-old Michael Farmer the year before. His truck veered off the road off the road into another pond.

Later in 2010, alarmed Greenwood officials applied for a federal grant to install guardrails at the city's most dangerous ponds. Three years later, not one permanent barrier has been installed.

It's taken Greenwood three years to find the money, get the necessary federal, state and local approvals and clear all the legal engineering hurtles.

Barriers are now required for new retention ponds. Some older neighborhoods installed their own, using their own money.

"It is a little frustrating. Obviously the association would like not to have spend its own money to protect drivers, but that's what we decided to do," said Connie Stephens, homeowner.

Greenwood officials admit they are frustrated by the lengthy process - but perhaps not as frustrated as worried residents.

"They don't care," said Brown. "They don't care. That's the bottom line. I mean, around here, if someone misses the stop sign here, they would right in the pond."