PLUMERVILLE, Ark. – Three children died early Sunday morning when the car they were in drove straight into a man-made lake, authorities said.
Arkansas State Police investigators and sheriff's deputies questioned the children's mother about what happened just after 3:30 a.m., when she apparently drove down an old state highway that dead-ends into the gunmetal blue waters of Brewer Lake.
Conway County Sheriff Mike Smith declined to immediately identify the children, ages 2, 7 and 8, or their 26-year-old mother.
Smith declined to offer any specifics about the drownings, saying deputies wanted to verify the mother's account of what happened. The Morrilton woman had not been arrested or charged as of Sunday afternoon, the sheriff said.
"We're going to run back through what she said," Smith told The Associated Press. "We want to make sure we do a good job on that."
Smith said many in Conway County, about 30 miles west of Little Rock, use the old highway to back boats into the lake, which is a state wildlife management area. The lake serves as the main drinking water source for the nearby city of Conway.
Before the lake was built just north of Plumerville in the early 1980s, Arkansas 92 went right through the area. Now, the two-lane highway veers east around the lake. The old portion of the state route, named Johnny Walker Road, bends around several rural homes before it crests a hill. The lake sits about 400 yards away at the bottom of the unlit road.
An old metal gate sat open at the top of the hill Sunday, and no skid marks were visible at the end of the road. The lake has washed away part of the road still above water over time.
Smith declined to say whether deputies conducted a field-sobriety test on the mother or drew any of her blood after the crash.
"We'll do our investigation and we certainly will turn everything over to our prosecuting attorney," Smith said.
Bill Sadler, spokesman for the Arkansas State Police, said troopers helped interview the mother. Sadler said he had no other details about the crash.
Neighbor Ricky Chapman, 50, said he saw a car speeding down Johnny Walker Road as he let his dog out around 3:30 a.m. A lifelong Conway County resident, Chapman said he could think of only one other time someone drove a car into the lake.
"It just kind of spooked them," Chapman said, looking out at the end of the road. "They got out."
A series of strong thunderstorms and fog had rolled through the area Sunday morning.
The children's bodies have been sent to the state Crime Laboratory in Little Rock for autopsies, Smith said. He expected to release their identities Monday.