Car accidents happen every single day. Most of the time everyone walks away unscathed, or at least able to recover, but other times, the consequences are deadly.
We all accept this risk when we get into a vehicle, whether as the driver or the passenger, but the potential for death hits differently when you’re a parent and your children are the ones trusting you as they ride in the backseat.
I can’t imagine that Michigan father Jon Paul Dowler was much different as he ferried his daughters, ages 8 and 10, on the day they had an accident that sent their car careening into Lake Macatawa.
Police say the girls were able to escape through a rear hatch before swimming to shore and going for help.
They believe that, since there is no handle on the inside of the hatch, that their father was able to open it before perishing in the water.
“At this point we are still looking into the hatch opening, however all indications point to the father opening it.”
For what it’s worth, the police agree that the incident appears to be nothing more than a tragic accident.
“At this point, we believe that the father became disoriented, not familiar with the area, which ended up with him ending up in the water just because of the way that road is constructed there. At the end of the road where the pavement ends, there’s about a 20-foot stretch before the water that’s kind of sand and gravel. We did not locate any tire marks in that area, so that tells us that at that point, he was airborne before going into the water.”
The girls say they fell asleep on the way home from visiting a family friend, only to wake up as their car hit the water.
Once they were able to escape the car, it took them longer than expected to find help. They knocked on some doors but the area is full of summer cottages that were unoccupied at the time. They spent the night on one of the enclosed porches, huddled together to stay warm in the below-freezing temperatures.
The next morning, they were able to find help from homeowner Kevin Macleod.
“I came out and there’s this little girl standing about where I am now, with one shoe on and barefoot.”
He took them inside, called authorities, and warmed them up in the meantime.
The girls are ok but the family is still struggling with their new reality, and I have to imagine it’s going to take them a while to feel anything close to normal.
Having the presence of mind to save his daughter’s lives in what had to have been a moment of horrible panic is the ultimate dad move.
I hope that knowledge gives his daughters the smallest amount of peace moving forward.