Man dies after driving into Lemon Lake
Coroner: Death was an apparent suicide
CENTER TWP. | A Hanover Township man drowned Tuesday afternoon after driving his minivan onto the frozen surface of Lemon Lake and remaining in the vehicle until it plunged into the icy waters.
The 27-year-old was pronounced dead at 1:52 p.m. by hospital staff at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point, a Lake County coroner's office spokesman said.
His death is being investigated as an apparent suicide, coroner's officials said. The Times typically does not disclose the identity of suicide victims.
More than 50 emergency responders, including crews from Crown Point, Cedar Lake, Gary, Hobart, Lakes of the Four Seasons and Lake County Aquatics Underwater Recovery and Rescue Inc. aided in the rescue effort.
Mark Baumgardner Sr., the Crown Point Fire Rescue Division chief of operations, said the man was in the water for about 55 minutes before divers got him out.
He was wearing a shirt and tie.
While emergency personnel transported him to St. Anthony, another set of divers conducted a secondary search to make sure there were no other victims, Baumgardner said. The man was alone in the Ford Astro Van.
One witness told a police officer the driver was doing doughnuts on the ice when it broke.
Baumgardner said ice on the lake Tuesday was 2 to 3 inches thick in most places. Ice should be 10 to 12 inches thick before walking on it, he added.
A pair of tire tracks curved from the road, down a grassy hill and onto the frozen edges of the lake.
The van plummeted into the water when the ice broke, a witness told police. That witness called 911 just after noon Tuesday from the Lemon Lake County Park.
The man apparently drove across 100 yards of grass and 200 yards of frozen lake before sinking, Lake County Police Chief Marco Kuyachich said.
Kuyachich said Lake County detectives, who are handling the investigation, have not yet determined the circumstances that led to the 27-year-old's death.
First, the van will be inspected to rule out any mechanical malfunction, he said. The Lake County Aquatics team cut a hole in the ice Tuesday afternoon and towed the van from the water.
Investigators will also review toxicology results from the coroner's office.