Woman recounts escaping from a sinking vehicle and the death of her boyfriend

2 taken to hospital after an SUV went into a lake in Van Buren County. (Photo Courtesy: South Haven Emergency Services)

A woman who escaped a sinking car in freezing water after driving into a Van Buren County lake shared her story and the story of her boyfriend who died.

Michigan State Police say alcohol was a factor in the crash.

Tara Smith spoke to Newschannel 3’s Anna Giles about the couple’s fight to reach shore.

It was a heartbreaking tragedy involving two people who loved each other deeply. Smith remembers the moment the car hit the ice and when Jeezrel Wallace suddenly disappeared.

She is still in awe she escaped a sinking car after accidentally crashing into School Section Lake in Bangor Township. Her heart is broken, because her passenger and boyfriend didn’t survive.

"I don’t understand what happened or why he stopped swimming. I don’t know if the water got to him," Smith said.

She said she remembered the harrowing moments after they plunged into the water, thinking the road continued, but the car started sinking. The couple escaped out the window and onto the top of the car.

Smith explained, "We're out there really far and you can see all of the ice and I said, ‘babe what do we do I'm scared.’ and he said 'we are going to have to jump, we have to get to shore, because the car is sinking babe we have to go.’"

They held hands and jumped in, but only Smith survived.

"I wanted to go back for him and then I would have died too, but I feel like I should have went (sic) back," she said.

These are the moments after she literally stumbled into help at a nearby home, which was caught on surveillance camera.

She says she lost the light and love of her life.

Smith said, "He inspired me and he put that light in me that I lost a long time ago.”

She hopes the community will understand her side of the story before assigning blame. "I don’t blame everybody for being mad at me or calling me a murderer because that’s not the case, I loved jeez with everything that I have."

Newschannel 3 did receive a statement from Wallace’s brother who described the situation as painful to talk about.

He said Wallace was very proud of the young son he left behind.

Michigan State Police is now investigating the crash.

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