Six Dead in Texas Lake Tragedy

Investigators are trying to find out what caused a car to roll through a barricade into Lake Lewisville, killing six of the seven people inside.

Police in the suburb north of Dallas briefly detained Bruno Sanchez Martinez, 23, who escaped from the submerged Ford Taurus late Sunday, for questioning.

Witnesses said Martinez had told them shortly after emerging from the lake that he was teaching his son to drive, but police said they did not know why the car plunged into the lake about 9:30 p.m. local time.

"I'm unable to answer that. I don't know where that came from," said Richard Douglass, a spokesman for the Lewisville Police Department. "We are investigating what happened out there as an accident."

Police are also trying to find out if alcohol played a role in the mishap.

The car drove through a barricade — a row of upright stakes about 3 feet tall and about one-third as thick as a telephone pole — before driving into the lake, Douglass said. The car was pulled from the lake about 90 minutes later.

The man still strapped in his seat behind the steering wheel was in his 30s, investigators said.

Searching for Clues

Today, investigators were looking for skid marks or other evidence that the driver braked before the car entered the water. Evidence of alcohol was found in the vehicle, police said, but it was unclear if it played a role in the accident.

"We won't know until we get toxicology tests back from the medical examiner's office," Douglass said.

Killed in the accident were Martinez's wife, Augustina Martinez, 21; Anahi Itsel Martinez, 8 months, and Jesus Daniel Martinez, 19 months. Also killed were the driver; his 22-year-old wife; and a girl believed to be between 13 and 15.

Martinez was in the front passenger seat when the car drove into the lake.

A spokeswoman for Medical Center of Lewisville said Martinez's wife was pronounced dead at 10:48 p.m.

The infant and toddler died after they were flown by helicopter to Children's Medical Center of Dallas, said Gary Pfeiffer, a field agent with the Dallas County medical examiner's office.

Other victims were taken to Parkland Health and Hospital System, Pfeiffer said.

Lake With a Reputation

Witnesses said Martinez was hysterical when he escaped from the vehicle and had to be restrained from diving back into the water for his children.

Daniel DeLuna, who works nearby, was asked to the scene to translate for Martinez, who speaks Spanish.

"He was just telling me his kids were in there, his wife and a few other people," DeLuna told Fort Worth television station KTVT. "He wanted me to jump in, and he wanted somebody else to jump in, and we were all holding him back because he was wanting to jump in himself."

Witness Michael Houser of Lewisville returned to the scene this morning.

"How could something like this really happen?" Houser said. "It just doesn't make sense to me."

Authorities have said Lewisville Lake has gained a reputation as one of the region's most dangerous waterways.

The lake led the Dallas-Fort Worth area from 1995 to May 2000 with seven reported boating-related deaths, 37 accidents, 24 injuries and 21 other water fatalities, state figures show.

Lewisville is about 20 miles north of Dallas.