Seven People Drown in S. Carolina Lake Where Susan Smith Killed 2 Sons

From Associated Press

A family and friends visiting the spot where Susan Smith drowned her two little boys met with tragedy themselves when their vehicle rolled into John D. Long Lake. Three adults and four children drowned.

Five of the victims were from one family--parents and their three children.

"It's like it's haunted or something. It keeps taking lives," Tommy Vinson, 46, said Sunday as he stood beside the lake six miles outside town.

The accident happened late Saturday. State divers worked through the night to find the bodies in the water near the boat ramp where Smith killed her children.

The group of 10 had driven out to the lake and parked next to the ramp with their Chevrolet Suburban's headlights shining on two memorials to the Smith boys, 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex, Sheriff Howard Wells told WSPA-TV.

Five members of the group had gotten out of the vehicle when it started to roll toward the water with four children and an adult inside, said Mike Willis, a spokesman for the state Natural Resources Department.

The van passed between the memorial markers and knocked over a young tree planted in the Smith boys' memory as it slid down the steep grassy embankment into about 15 feet of water.

Two adults, one of them the mother of three of the children, dived into the lake to help, and drowned with the others. The father of the children was behind the wheel and the vehicle's gear shift was found in park, Wells said.

The accident killed an entire family from nearby Buffalo, S.C.: Tim Phillips, 26; his wife, Angie, 22; and children, Courtney, 4; Meleana, 23 months; and 4-month-old Kinsleigh, said Teresa Mims, the Phillips' cousin.

Also killed in the accident were Carl White, 29, of Campobello, S.C., and 3-year-old Austin Roodvoets of Inman, S.C. Both towns are about 40 miles northwest of Union.

Angie Phillips and White dived into the water to try to save those in the truck, Wells said.

He said they freed some of the children from the vehicle, but not in time to save them.

"There's going to be some who say the lake needs to be drained. There should have been guardrails built," said Leonard Roark, a retired textile worker from Union who was among those gathered at the lake Sunday morning.

On Oct. 25, 1994, Smith, distraught over a love affair, released the safety brake on her car and let it roll down the boat ramp with her sons strapped inside in the back seat.

For nine days, she insisted that a black man had commandeered her car, and she begged tearfully on nationwide television for her sons' safe return.

On Nov. 3, she confessed that she had drowned the boys.

Smith was sentenced in July 1995 to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2025.

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