An eyewitness said a Claremore couple who drowned Wednesday tried to escape their vehicle before it was submerged in a retention pond near a turnpike on-ramp at Verdigris.

Terry Yvonne McCollum, 55, and husband Jerry McCollum, 66, died Wednesday after their vehicle plunged to the bottom of a pond just southwest of the Will Rogers Turnpike gate off highway 266.

The couple moved to Claremore from Catoosa about six months ago.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol report states at approximately 12:15 p.m., Terry McCollum was driving a 2001 Mitsubishi on Highway 266 where she entered the entrance ramp for the turnpike.

Terry McCollum failed to negotiate the curve on the ramp, running over a concrete median before plunging down a steep embankment into the 25 feet deep water.

An eyewitness to the accident told authorities and surrounding residents that he observed Jerry McCollum trying to get out of the vehicle through a back window. However, that attempt failed and the couple became trapped inside the sinking car.

Verdigris firefighters arrived on scene immediately, according to Fire Chief Bob Cox, and began searching for the vehicle in an attempt to rescue the couple. Initially, authorities were told there was only one occupant inside the vehicle, Cox said.

A three-man dive team was called in from the Inola Fire Department, and the vehicle was located at approximately 1:45 p.m.

Residents of the area said since the ramp opened in 2002, there have been five or six accidents where vehicles have driven into the pond. Although those vehicles were submerged as well, there had been no fatalities until Wednesday’s accident.

Currently, there are no guardrails along the ramp, which one resident said she would like to see installed because the ramp is “unsafe.”