Car sinks in frozen Idaho lake after DUI suspect drives on it and breaks ice, cops say

An Idaho man accused of driving under the influence probably won’t get his car back until spring, local authorities said.

That’s because it’s stuck in an otherwise frozen lake.

John W. Hamilton, a 37-year-old Coeur D’Alene man, was arrested on DUI charges Sunday after deputies said he drove his car onto frozen Hayden Lake and broke through the ice, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release on Monday.

Deputies were called to Honeysuckle Beach in Hayden around 10 p.m. on reports that a car on the lake’s frozen surface had fallen through — with witnesses saying the man at the wheel had twice driven off the beach’s boat launch in the vehicle, which was now sinking, according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputies who responded to the beach spotted a man “in wet clothing walking towards the shore as the tail lights of the vehicle slipped beneath the surface,” the sheriff’s office said.

Hamilton said he was the only person in the car when it started sinking, but a sheriff’s office dive rescue team and sonar team responded to the beach, and the sonar team launched a remotely-operated vehicle in the lake to make sure no one was stuck in the car, deputies said.

The sheriff’s office said Hamilton “was very lucky that he was not seriously injured or trapped inside his vehicle.”

The spot where his 2015 Nissan Rogue fell through the ice was about 650 feet from the shoreline, and deputies estimated it is now submerged in waters 17 feet deep.

Deputies said the car will likely be stuck in the lake until the ice melts.

A Kootenai County Jail log said Hamilton was booked there early Monday morning.

Sunday’s arrest is Hamilton’s second DUI offense, the sheriff’s office said.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.