Woman dies after car plunges into Hobart’s Lake George
Post-Tribune staff report September 11, 2013 4:38PM
A woman driving this Honda went into Lake George in Hobard Wednesday afternoon. | Ruth Ann Krause/For Post-Tribune
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:46AM
HOBART — Brandon Grafton and Nicole Hutnick were on their way to Southlake Mall on Wednesday afternoon but couldn’t ignore a car in front of them that was speeding and driving erratically from Indiana 130 where it meets Indiana 51.
As the driver, Shirley Gronlund, 83, of Valparaiso, continued west toward downtown, they saw her run stop lights at speeds of up to 60 mph.
Then, at Front and Main streets, the driver “went airborne” at the top of an incline between Chase Bank and the Hobart Branch of the Lake County Library. Her silver Honda Accord smashed through a metal gate at the lakefront and landed about 50 feet from the water’s edge in about 10 feet of water.
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 dive team member Cpl. Mark Grissom, Patrolmen Robert Brazil and Scott Shaginaw and Sgt. Rod Gonzalez in the murky, weed-filled water. Witnesses said she was underwater about 10 minutes before she was extricated from the car and taken by ambulance to St. Mary Medical Center.
“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.