His sister said that Dabney lived disabled for the past three years, after a spinal surgery left him unable to walk.
Stephanie Dabney said Richmond Police came to her door Friday afternoon.
They carried her brother Fred’s driver’s license. After she identified him, she said they explained what had happened and why for hours she’d been unable to reach him by phone.
"They said that it was him they pulled out of the James River," said Dabney.
"I'm still in the state of shock because I want to know what happened," she said. "He parked his car right beside the steps and would slide down the steps to get in to the car, he always went to work.”.
That was before he moved in with his eldest sister who installed ramps outside their home to make it easier to get him to and from his job of twenty years as a medical records clerk at the VCU Medical Center.
"He loved his job, he loved MCV, so he would always go.”
He could drive himself because his car was equipped with special hand controls.
Dabney thinks a fender bender earlier last week may have damaged the controls and that after the incident the driver's side door wouldn't open normally. Police recovered Dabney's car with the sunroof open.
"Maybe he tried to get out of the sunroof but by him not using his legs he couldn't move."
Even if he had escaped somehow, she said he couldn’t have used his legs to swim.
Dabney hopes the police investigation will give her answers as to why his car went off road, and that the answers will bring some peace.
"Everybody loved him, just a good guy," Dabney said. "I just can't imagine him not being here. I just can't imagine it."