911 calls of fatal lake crash released
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (WSVN) -- The 911 tapes from witnesses who saw a car just before it crashed into a lake, killing one of its occupants, have been released.
Surveillance video shows the car at the RaceTrac gas station in West Park, on Pembroke Road, just before it drove into the lake. According to police, an argument between a couple broke out at about 12:30 a.m. at the gas station. According to police, Sandro Michel, began beating Catherine Copeland outside the convenience store.
"The woman was screaming, 'Call the cops, call the cops!'" Briana Medard, a witness at the gas station, said.
"He's fighting her, like literally fighting her and forcing her to drive her car," a witness said in a 911 call.
The car in the video is shaking and then moving and stopping while the alleged abuse is going on. "You see the car like jerking, as if she had her foot on the gas, and he had his on the brake or something like that," said Medard.
A few blocks away from the RaceTrac, witnesses spotted the couple fighting inside the car, with their 3-year-old daughter, Sariyah Michel inside. Officials said Copeland was behind the wheel when she lost control and crashed into the lake, near the 4000 block of Southwest 20th Street.
Michel has a long criminal history, according to police, and, relatives said, he did not want to go back to jail, so he steered the car into the water once he heard police sirens closing in.
"Oh, my God, the car! Oh, my God, it's in the lake!" said a frantic witness in a 911 call. "The car is literally in the water."
Copeland managed to exit the vehicle, but her daughter and Michel were trapped inside.
Broward Sheriff's Office deputies arrived on scene soon after to find Copeland screaming for help. BSO deputy Cazi Navarro would dive in the water to try and rescue the family. "The entire time [Copeland] kept screaming, 'My baby! My baby! My baby!" he said. "As I'm getting [there], this thing that I saw floating in the water, I saw it was a Pamper and attached to the Pamper was this little girl," he said. "I yanked her out of the water with the preserver around my arms."
Fredericka Taylor, the victim's cousin, was at Joe DiMaggio's, to support her little cousin. "I want to say thank you to whoever that deputy was," she said. "That was bravery. That was more than kindness. He risked his own life."
The little girl was leaden with water and Navarro immediately administered rescue techniques. "I started hitting her in the back, so I could get the water out of her because I could feel she was bloated from the water," said Navarro.
"We're just hoping for the best," said Taylor. "We're trying to make sure Sariyah's all right."
The father of the child, however, did not make it out of the lake alive.
Tuesday afternoon, the daughter is still at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital where she is in good condition. She had water in her lungs but is expected to recover.
Her mother was treated and released from Memorial Regional Hospital.
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