- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

PLUMERVILLE, ARK. (AP) - A woman whose car plunged off a dead-end road into a lake in rainy, dark weather reportedly told the sheriff she tried to rescue her three young sons from the vehicle but lost her grip on them in the water.

The sheriff, who said the boys drowned, said Monday that investigators were checking her story.

The boys _ ages 8, 7 and 2 _ were recovered from Lake Brewer after the car went into the water at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, in a rural area of central Arkansas, and they were pronounced dead at a hospital.

Autopsy results were pending for the boys, but Conway County Sheriff Mike Smith said they drowned. Officials did not release their names.

Relatives of the boys gathered Monday at a rural home near Plumerville.

“It’s a terrible loss. This is a terrible thing,” Larry Hopkins, who identified himself as the boys’ grandfather, said through tears at the house. He then asked a reporter to leave, saying he didn’t want to discuss the deaths.

The woman said she tried to pull the boys to safety from the car but lost her grip on them, Smith told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper of Little Rock.

Smith said no charges had been filed, but said investigators were working to verify the mother’s account.

“We’re going to run back through what she said,” Smith told The Associated Press. “We want to make sure we do a good job on that.”

Smith declined to say if deputies conducted a field-sobriety test on the mother or drew any of her blood.

“We’ll do our investigation and we certainly will turn everything over to our prosecuting attorney,” Smith said.

The car was traveling on Old Highway 92, known as Johnny Walker Road, that dead-ends at the lake. The state highway was relocated years ago when Cypress Creek was dammed to form the reservoir.

A warning sign directs motorists to turn left at the bottom of a hill but the road itself goes straight to the edge of the lake, where there is no other warning sign.

Smith said many people in Conway County, about 30 miles west of Little Rock, use the old highway to back boats into the lake, which is a state wildlife management area. The reservoir serves as the main drinking water source for the nearby city of Conway.

It wasn’t clear Monday morning whether the state or Conway County was responsible for maintaining signs on the old route.

Weather in the region early Saturday was heavy rain and fog during thunderstorms.

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