PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Two sisters escaped from a car that went into a lake in western Michigan and then shivered for hours in soggy coats and bare feet before finally finding help, authorities said.
Their 52-year-old father, who was driving the car, was dead when divers located the vehicle Sunday in Lake Macatawa, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said.
The girls, ages 8 and 10, escaped through the rear of the car, got to shore and were alone overnight for hours before finding someone nearby at a home in Park Township. Many properties around the lake are vacant in the winter.
The air temperature was in the low 30s.
“I just saw a little face,” Kevin MacLeod said, telling MLive/The Grand Rapids Press how he responded to a knock at his door. “I just figured they were in trouble.”
The girls had stayed on someone’s porch and waited for daylight, sheriff’s Lt. Eric Westveer said.
“They said they just huddled together through the night and kept each other warm until they were able to find a residence that had people in it,” Westveer said.
The sheriff’s office identified the father as Jon Dowler of Otsego.
The girls were taken to a hospital for observation. Westveer said it was unclear how the vehicle’s rear hatch opened to allow them to escape.
“Divine intervention,” he added, “or it could be as simple as dad hit the button.”
The crash remains under investigation, though Westveer said it appeared to be an accident.
“We believe that the father became disoriented, not familiar with the area, which ended up (with) him ending up in the water just because of the way that road is constructed there,” the lieutenant said.