A buoyant diaper may have saved the life of a Florida toddler who was plunged into a lake when an argument between her parents caused their car to swerve into the water. Sariyah Michel, 3, and her mother were rescued from the lake, but her father drowned.
Parents Catherine Copeland, 33, and Sandro Michel, 27, were engaged in a violent argument in the car when they lost control early Tuesday morning.
“Her husband was hitting her as she was driving causing her to lose control of the car,” said a Broward Sheriff’s Office news release.
The altercation began at a RaceTrac gas station, where concerned bystanders called 911.
“[Michel] was telling [Copeland] that he didn’t want to go to jail,” Copeland’s cousin Fredericka Taylor told ABC News’ Miami/Ft. Lauderdale affiliate WPLG. “I guess he tried to run, because she was driving, but he went and placed his foot on the gas, attempting to get away.”
The car crashed into an embankment and plunged into the water.
When deputies arrived on-scene, they heard “cries for help coming from the darkness” and “found the woman struggling to stay afloat in the lake,” said the release.
Copeland was “screaming that her 3-year-old daughter was in the car.”
“All of a sudden, this little thing popped up like a cork,” Deputy Cazi Navarro told the Sun Sentinel. “I saw it was a Pamper, and attached to the Pamper was this little girl.”
Navarro jumped into the lake and rescued the girl.
“At that point the baby was kind of lifeless, her arms were dangling, no responsiveness, no consciousness,” Deputy Michael Francis told the Sun Sentinel.
“As soon as she got to the shore, they took her from [Navarro's] arms and someone started doing CPR,” said Keyla Concepcion, the public information officer for the Broward Sheriff’s Fire Rescue. “People were there on standby to whisk her away to the hospital.”
Sariyah was taken to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and listed in critical but stable condition. Copeland was treated in the hospital and released.
Michel was found dead in the submerged vehicle and his remains were taken to a medical examiner for an autopsy. He was under court order not to have any contact with Copeland and was on probation for a domestic battery charge, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said homicide detectives are still investigating the case.