A beer bottle was the first thing to surface when divers broke the window on a sports car submerged near the Honeysuckle Beach boat ramp.
Still trapped inside were a 31-year-old Spokane man and his 26-year-old passenger. Pedro Celestino Garcia-Ramos, the driver, and Guadalupe Pacheco, also of Spokane, both drowned late Monday inside the car, authorities said.
The car’s headlights and windshield wipers were still on when Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies arrived about 11:25 p.m. Sheriff’s Department divers pulled the victims from the 1985 Nissan 300ZX about 10 minutes later, the Idaho State Police said.
Alcohol appears to have been a factor in the accident, the ISP said. Court records show Garcia-Ramos was on probation in Spokane for a drunken driving conviction.
Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies found his car submerged in about 8 feet of water at the end of the boat ramp on the west side of Hayden Lake. The car settled about 30 feet from shore.
A bent front license plate was the only noticeable damage, leading officers to believe the car may have rolled into the lake, said Sgt. Dan Damitio. Investigators said neither victim wore a seat belt.
“We’re at kind of a loss as to what happened,” said Damitio, who estimated the car had not been in the water longer than 25 minutes when it was discovered.
The drownings were the fourth and fifth, including two children, in North Idaho waters during the past six weeks. They also marked the second tragedy at the Hayden Lake boat launch in recent years.
A 38-year-old Kennewick man drowned in November 1995 after his car slipped into the lake. Alcohol also contributed to that accident.
On Monday, two teenage girls walking on the dock next to Honeysuckle Beach called deputies after spotting the car’s headlights and roof. The car had not completely submerged when they noticed it, Damitio said.
“If people hadn’t seen the lights, that car might have set there until morning,” said sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger.
Deputies collected about a dozen beer bottles they found inside the car and floating in the water, said George Oakley, who watched as divers broke the rear window on the hatchback and one of the glass T-tops to free the victims.
“As soon as they broke the window, the first thing to come up was a beer bottle,” Oakley said.
Damitio confirmed authorities found alcohol in the car.
According to District Court records in Spokane, Garcia-Ramos had a history of drunken driving, amassing four arrests for driving under the influence since 1993.
Garcia-Ramos refused to take a Breathalyzer test following a June 1996 arrest in the Spokane Valley for drunken driving and misdemeanor possession of marijuana, court records state. Two months later, Garcia-Ramos pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, fined $925 and given two years’ probation, court records state.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Brian Coddington Staff writer Staff writer Adam Lynn contributed to this report.