Two 22-year-old Coeur d’Alene women died early Saturday morning in a vehicle that plunged into 12 feet of frigid water at the Honeysuckle boat ramp on Hayden Lake.
A Coeur d’Alene man, also 22, escaped.
The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office identified the women as Charlie Rae Buckingham, who is survived by a husband, a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter, and Alice Rebecca Greely, who recently moved to Coeur d’Alene from Missoula.
Jason Tyler Compton managed to escape from the 1997 Ford Expedition, which was submerged about 125 feet from the shore.
The water temperature was 39 degrees.
Members of the sheriff’s Dive-Rescue Team freed the women from the vehicle, but they were pronounced dead at Kootenai Medical Center.
“They just drove straight down the ramp and right into the water,” sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said. “They hit the water with quite a bit of speed — enough to hydroplane out into the lake that far.”
Wolfinger said Compton denied being the driver, “but he wasn’t sure who was. He had been drinking.”
The vehicle was owned by Buckingham, Wolfinger said.
Alcohol is believed to have been a factor in what apparently was “a tragic accident,” he added. “We don’t believe there was anything deliberate about it at all.”
The area of the boat ramp is a popular gathering spot, and a similar incident occurred in December, Wolfinger noted.
Saturday’s incident remains under investigation. No charges – if any – would be filed until the investigation is complete.
Autopsies are planned for Monday or Tuesday.