By Jason Wesseldyk
PARK TOWNSHIP—A 52-year-old Otsego man is dead after his vehicle went into Lake Macatawa in Ottawa County in the early morning hours on Sunday, Jan. 22.
Officials from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office believe Jon Dowler’s vehicle entered the lake at approximately 2 a.m. The crash has been ruled accidental based on preliminary evidence, but the incident remains under investigation, according to Lt. Eric Westveer.
Dowler’s two daughters—ages 10 and 8—were also in the vehicle, but managed to escape by opening the hatchback and making their way to shore.
The girls spent the rest of the night huddled together on a nearby front porch before knocking on the door of a home owned by Kevin Macleod and his wife Maribeth VanHecke at around 9 a.m.
“I came down to look, and I just saw a little face right here,” Macleod told Fox 17 News. “So I came out, and there’s this little girl standing about where I am now, with one shoe on a bare foot.”
Macleod called 911, and authorities from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office arrived at about 9 a.m. The vehicle was located at about 2 p.m., with Dowling still inside.
The girls—whose names are being withheld due to their ages—were transported to a local hospital and treated for exposure to the cold before being released.
Macleod said many homeowners in the area don’t live there during the winter and wonders how many doors the girls knocked on before finding someone at home.
“I think they came out of the water, and it was just dark here,” he said. “I asked them if they saw our Christmas tree, and they said they did. And they saw the cars in the driveway.”
Westveer said the situation could have been even more tragic had Macleod and his wife not been there to help the girls.
“I think what they did, helping those girls, partly saved their lives because of the cold exposure that they had,” Westveer said.