Two Cushman Residents Die When Their Vehicle Goes Into White River

CUSHMAN, AR--Following the apparent drowning deaths of two Cushman residents Sunday, the Independence County Sheriff's Department is trying to figure out what lead to one of the victims driving a car into the white river.

It started as a normal check of the water level on the White River for Cushman resident Ishmael Thorpe, but turned into an eye opening event.

"When I came in there and pulled around, I was about to turn and he started his car up and came towards me and I thought he was going to go east and he got right up beside me, just waved and turned right and headed straight into the river," said Thorpe.

According to Thorpe, once the car hit the water, it took just seconds for it to become submerged. That's because the boat ramp drops off very quickly going from a couple inches to more than 30 feet deep.

"I thought he was just going to go down the ramp and scare them, but when he got to the water, he accelerated his car and went on in," said Thorpe.

Skid marks show where the driver of the car, 58 year-old John Wesley Bunch pressed the accelerator just before hitting the water. Three people were inside the vehicle when it went underwater. Bunch and 49 year-old Jimmy Dean White, both of Cushman, died inside. However, the third passenger, 20 year-old Tannaka Smith managed to escape from the back window.

According to Captain Bill Lindsey of the Independence County Sheriff's Department, after questioning Smith, they are sure this was no accident.

"The only thing is that the young lady said the driver drove into the river intentionally," said Lindsey.

As of now the Sheriff's Department has few answers as to what would cause Bunch to drive into the river.

"She said that there had been an argument between the two of them. No altercation just an argument," said Lindsey.

Thorpe has his own opinion on what might have contributed to the erratic behavior.

"They were drinking. They had fishing rods and such hanging out the window, but they weren't doing no fishing," said Thorpe.

According to Sheriff's Deputies and residents the spot is a popular hangout for drinking and drugs, although authorities have yet to determine if alcohol or drugs was a factor in this incident.

According to the Sheriff's Department it appears both Jimmy Dean White and John Wesley Bunch drown. Both of their bodies were sent to the state crime lab to confirm their cause of death.