Two Michigan sisters, 8 and 10, survived a cold night huddled together in wet clothes Sunday after their father’s car crashed into a Michigan lake.
The crash happened around 2 a.m. Sunday at Lake Macatawa, just over 30 miles from Grand Rapids, according to MLive.com.
After the girls spent about seven hours on a nearby porch huddled together for warmth, they knocked on one man’s door.
They were treated for cold exposure and released from the hospital, police said in a news release.
About 12 hours after the car went into the water, authorities found the vehicle completely submerged in the lake. Inside was the body of the girls’ father, 52-year-old Jon Dowler, police said.
Police also told the Holland Sentinel they believe the crash was an accident and speed may have been a factor.
“At this point, 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,” Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Eric Westveer told the newspaper.
Seeking help after the accident
Kevin MacLeod was at home with his wife around 9 a.m. Sunday when they heard a knock at the door.
The couple lives in a neighborhood with more than a few vacated houses, and most of the nearby homes are empty cottages or summer homes, according to the Holland Sentinel.
“I go out through my front porch and I just see a little girl’s face,” MacLeod told USA TODAY.
He opened the front porch door and saw a little girl standing there, shivering in a wet coat with one shoe on and one bare foot.
She said she was in the car with her father and sister when somehow, the car ended up in the lake.
MacLeod made sure the other little girl made it into the house. His wife called 911 and the girls were able to relay information to authorities.
MacLeod said there was light covering of snow on the ground and records show the low temperature dipped to 32 degrees that night. .
The couple gave them fresh socks, blankets and other items to keep warm once they were safely inside.
How did the girls escape
Westveer said the girls and their father were going home after visiting a family friend when the crash occurred.
“They (said) they kind of fell asleep and they (woke up) to the sound of the crash and then hitting the water,” Westveer told the Holland Sentinel.
“They said the back hatched opened,” Westveer said. “What we don’t know yet is how that back hatch opened because there’s not a lever on it like a normal side door. But they stated the back hatch opened and they were able to crawl out of that and then they swam to shore.”
He said it could’ve been “divine intervention,” or perhaps their father hit the button to open it for them and free them.
Since the accident, a GoFundMe has been started to support the family and raised over $13,000.
MacLeod said helping them was a given.
“I would hope that any person who was confronted with cold and shivering kids at 9:00 in the morning would’ve done the same thing,” he said.
Includes reporting from the Holland Sentinel and Rachel Van Gilder, WOOD TV-8.
Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757 – and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at [email protected].