Emergency crews were called just before 4 p.m. Sunday to Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park.
When they arrived, the vehicle was already in the water.
Witnesses said some people along the river jumped into the water and helped rescue the woman.
Joseph Wentzell and two other good Samaritans desperately tried to rescue the panicked woman trapped inside the sinking vehicle.
"I didn't think it would be such a struggle," Wentzell said. "It didn't seem far. I could swim there easily, but then I couldn't open the doors."
A woman named Jasmine didn't want to give her last name, but she said she could see the driver in the front seat. She watched from the river banks in horror as the car began to sink into the river.
"She was on her phone," she said. "She wasn't worried until she started sinking, and then people started going in to save her."
Wentzell recounted the struggle.
"I didn't want to open the front door because it was already going under water," he said. "I yelled to the woman to climb to the back. I tried to open the back, but everything was locked and couldn't be undone. I banged on the window with my hands but couldn't break it. Another man was swimming, and couldn't break (the window), and a third man jumped in with a tire iron...And literally as soon as she got out, the car went under."
A dragon boat rowing by scooped up the female driver and the good Samaritans and took them to the shore.
Police have not said if this was accidental or intentional, but witnesses said the driver deliberately drove into the water at the other end of the parking lot.
She was taken to an area hospital for evaluation.
As for Wentzell, he said he just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
"It's what anyone would do, you know, really," he said. "I think that at first, you think someone is going to come, that police and fire are going to come. And they weren't there, and the car was obviously starting to sink. I just reacted."
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