West Virginia firefighter dies trying to save mom, child who drove into water in alleged murder-suicide

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An Ohio mother and child died in West Virginia after the woman allegedly intentionally drove her vehicle into a river – an incident that also resulted in the death of a young volunteer firefighter who tried to rescue them, officials have said. 

Investigators have determined that LaTonya Bell careened her vehicle into the Elk River in Sutton, West Virginia around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, while she and 8-year-old Havana Pipkins were inside, state Fire Marshal officials announced earlier this week. 

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Local affiliate FOX 11 identified the woman and child as mother and daughter from Cleveland, Ohio. 

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Gassaway Volunteer Firefighter John D. Forbush, 24, heard news of the emergency over the department radio feed and rushed to the scene, which was located roughly a mile from where he was at the time, marshals said. He arrived and reported back that he saw what looked like victims trapped inside “and immediately jumped into the river to rescue the victims,” officials said.

None of the three could be saved. 

Braxton County Sheriff’s Office investigators determined Bell “intentionally drove her vehicle into the Elk River.” Officials have deemed the case a murder-suicide. 

Forbush, a 4-year volunteer firefighter, “selflessly gave his life for strangers in need,” fire marshals said.

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A GoFundMe page created in his honor describes him as having a 1-year-old daughter with his significant other. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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