Elderly driver dies after being pulled from Lake George

2013-09-11T23:44:00Z 2013-09-12T23:48:09Z Elderly driver dies after being pulled from Lake GeorgeDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | An 83-year-old Valparaiso woman died Wednesday night after being rescued from her car, which had careened into Lake George, police said.

Shirley J. Gronlund was rescued about 2:30 p.m. from her submerged vehicle and taken to St. Mary Medical Center, where she later died, said police spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Ogden. She was pronounced dead at 6:40 p.m by the Lake County coroner's office. Her cause of death is pending.

Gronlund's family told police there may have been a medical problem that led to the elderly woman leaving her Valparaiso home and then plunging her car into Lake George.

The family told police Gronlund had left open the garage door and had hit her mailbox before leaving her home.

"The family all expressed their gratitude to rescuers," Ogden said.

He said police are still investigating reports Gronlund may have been driving erratically and may have sideswiped another car in downtown Hobart prior to heading west on Front Street and then into Lake George.

Gronlund was rescued from her car by Hobart police Cpl. Mark Grissom, Ogden said.

Grissom, a Hobart police rescue diver, said he pulled Gronlund from her car after being taken by boat to the submerged vehicle and then breaking the window with a special glass-shattering tool.

Grissom, whose right hand was injured during the rescue, was taken to the hospital for treatment, Ogden said.

Others who arrived at the scene included Officers Robert Brazil and Scott Shaginaw and Sgt. Rod Gonzalez.

Also assisting with the rescue were three divers from the Hobart Fire Department and Hobart paramedics, who resuscitated the victim and transported her, said Hobart EMS Director Robert Scott.

Members of the Lake County dive team and a conservation officer also assisted.

Kristie Amaya, of Hobart, said she was using the Chase ATM off of Front Street and saw Gronlund's car break through a small fence and "fly" into Lake George behind the Hobart branch of the Lake County Public Library.

"She just floored it. I'm not sure if she meant to hit the brake and hit the accelerator or was just confused," Amaya said.

Amaya said she watched as the woman's car rested on the water and then went under.

Gronlund didn't appear to be panicking when she hit the water, Amaya said. She saw the driver moving her arms.

"She was probably under the water for 20 minutes. She was blue when they pulled her out of the car," Amaya said.

Amaya called 911 at 2:25 p.m. from her cellphone. The woman was pulled from her submerged car at 2:44 p.m., Amaya recalled because it was the same time she called her husband on her cellphone.

"Several pedestrians also jumped into the water but couldn't break through her car window," Amaya said.

Ogden estimates the depth of Lake George, where the car settled, to be approximately 10 feet.

He credits responders with keeping track of the exact position of where the car went down so divers would know where to go.

"It's important that they responded the way they did. They all worked as a team to save a lot of time," Ogden said.

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