PEMBROKE PARK (CBSMiami) – A three-year-old child remains hospitalized Tuesday after a couple go into a domestic dispute in a car which drove into a Pembroke Park lake due to the fight.
The father died, the mother was rescued and the child may have been saved thanks to her diaper.
According to Broward Sheriff’s Office officials, a car went into a lake at 4000 SW 20th Street shortly after witnesses saw the couple fighting inside the car at a nearby RaceTrac Gas station on Pembroke Road about three blocks from the lake.
According to BSO officials, witnesses saw Sandro Michel, 27, and Catherine Copeland, 33, fighting in the car and called 911. Copeland was in the drivers’ seat but witnesses told deputies Michel was tugging at the wheel and putting his foot on the gas when the car drove right into Lake Helen.
When deputies arrived, Copeland was on top of the car screaming for help.
“The entire time she kept screaming, my baby, my baby, my baby,” said BSO Deputy Cazi Navarro.
Navarro brought Copeland to shore. “As I was getting close to her she went down for the second time and I had to dive down to grab her and bring her up. Once I got her up, she thought I was a life preserver, so I’m fighting with this woman to keep her from making me drown so eventually I forced her to grab this life preserver and forced her to the shore.”
After Copeland was safe, Navarro found the child, Sariyah Michel, floating lifelessly in the water, possibly brought to the surface due to the buoyancy of her diaper.
“I yanked her out of the water, put the preserver around my arm and I started hitting her in the back to get the water out of her cause I could feel she was bloated full of water,” said Navarro.
Sariyah was taken to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood in critical condition.
“Catherine is doing as any mother would do at her daughter’s bedside; so we’re hoping for the best,” said Fredericka Taylor, a family cousin.
Copeland was also hospitalized but later released to be with her daughter. Sandro Michel died on the scene.
Family members are distraught.
“It’s a hard morning for our whole family. Right now, we’re just trying to stay strong,” said Taylor.
Taylor also said the couple had been having marital problems.
In the past three years, Michel was arrested for domestic violence, accused of beating and hitting Copeland.
According to the state attorney’s office, Michel pleaded no contest in a Sept. 2009 incident and a May 2011 incident. He was sentenced to 12 months probation and was ordered to attend the Batterer’s Intervention program twice.
“It surprised me that he got that violent, he held a lot of stuff in,” said relative Ronald Bolds.