HOBART, Ind.(STMW) — Brandon Grafton and Nicole Hutnick were on their way to the mall on Wednesday afternoon but couldn’t ignore a car in front of them that was speeding and driving erratically.
As the driver, Shirley Gronlund, 83, of Valparaiso, continued west from Route 130 on Route 51 in Hobart, Ind., they saw her run stop lights at speeds of up to 60 mph.
Then, in downtown Hobart, the driver “went airborne” at the top of an incline between a bank and the Hobart Branch of the Lake County Library. Her silver car smashed through a metal gate at at Lake George and landed about 50 feet from the water’s edge in about 10 feet of water, the Post-Tribune is reporting.
Gronlund died later Wednesday at St. Mary Medical Center.
“We tried to get to her,” Grafton said. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and dove in, joining Hobart police officer Rod Gonzalez and others in the murky, weed-filled water.
Witnesses said the woman was under water about 10 minutes before she was extricated from the car and taken by ambulance to St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.
“She was ahead of us, then we saw a big splash,” Hutnick added.
Both Grissom and Grafton suffered cuts from broken glass as they tried frantically to rescue Gronlund from her sinking car. Grafton was treated at the scene by a Hobart Fire Department medic and Grissom went to the emergency room.
Paul Stanley said he was at Indiana 51 and Indiana 130 and watched the driver “weaving in and out of traffic.” He speculated the woman may have had a medical condition or problems with her accelerator. “But she didn’t hit any people,” he said, noting the gazebo area is a popular gathering place.
“She was flying. She came down the hill and, just, airborne,” Stanley said.
Lake County divers were in the water for more than an hour trying to free the car from the bottom of the lake. It was towed from the water about 4:30 p.m.
“It was a great effort by police and EMS personnel to try and save her,” Sgt. Jeremy Ogden said. “Everyone did a fantastic job. It’s an unfortunate incident.” He said rescue workers on the scene were unhappy that their efforts did not save the woman’s life.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)