A 63-year-old mother tried to stop her son from committing suicide in Holley-Navarre on Monday when he deliberately drove a pickup truck into the East River.
She was unsuccessful.
Santa Rosa emergency 911 operators received a call for help around noon. The caller was a hysterical female, reporting there was a submerged vehicle in the river off the boat ramp located at Hwy. 87 - north of Navarre. Inside the vehicle was 39-year-old Justin Raye Diel of Navarre.
Sheriff's officials arrived for traffic control to find Lifeguard Ambulance and fire department personnel on scene. The woman told deputies she was following her son in a borrowed truck to return to his friend, while he drove his own truck ahead of her. As they approached the boat ramp, he turned on the road to the river. When she saw the water, reports indicate, she said she knew what he was going to do.
The deputy's report says, "...she stopped the truck and tried to grab the door handle of the truck her son was in, but he drove straight into the water. She said she held on and was pulled into the water with the truck. She said her son kept the windows up and she heard him turn the radio up all the way."
Santa Rosa Sheriff's divers arrived at the river and located the vehicle in dark, murky waters. It took several attempts before the truck was raised from the water, as the cables on the tow trucks broke repeatedly. A heavy-duty wrecker arrived around 6 p.m. and the vehicle became visible as it was pulled onto the boat ramp.
Diel's body was found inside, along with a piece of paper with scripture from the Bible written on it. Diel was reportedly bi-polar and had stopped taking his medication.
The woman said her son recently retired from the Air Force, Hurlburt Field.