PATOKA, Ill. (AP) — Three adults and two children drowned in southern Illinois after their vehicle was swept off a rural bridge over a rain-swollen creek and submerged, a coroner said Sunday.
The swift-moving East Fork Creek carried the car off a low-water bridge about 7:30 p.m. Saturday near the town of Patoka, about 60 miles east of St. Louis, according to Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon. The vehicle became lodged about 150 to 200 feet downstream and an occupant called 911 for help, but shortly after a firefighter arrived on the scene, the car became dislodged and sank, Cannon said.
Dive teams recovered the car, which was traveling from Kentucky to Minnesota, from the water several hours later, said Cannon, who pronounced all five dead from drowning just before midnight.
The names of the victims were not immediately released. Authorities were notifying relatives in Kentucky and Minnesota of the deaths, he said.
The vehicle had been on Interstate 57, and investigators "speculate they may have stopped for fuel or dinner ... and somehow got turned around or were following an erroneous GPS track," Cannon said in a news release.
The car drove into several feet of water, he said.
"The low-water crossing under normal conditions typically has very little water trickling across the roadway, if any at all. However, with the recent heavy rains, East Fork Creek, as with all other waterways in the region, was swollen and moving swiftly," Cannon said.
Patoka Fire Chief Blake estimated water levels had risen to 4 to 5 feet above the roadway. He told WJBD radio that the occupants of the car may not have seen the high water until it was too late after cresting a hill.
This story has been corrected to show that Patoka is about 60 miles east of St. Louis, not west.