8-month-old girl dies after family SUV plunges into icy lake - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

8-month-old girl dies after family SUV plunges into icy lake

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The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has confirmed that the 8-month-old girl who spent a quarter of an hour submerged in icy waters after her family's SUV plunged through the ice on Lake Minnetonka has died.

Officials say Tabitha Markle died as a result of drowning 60 hours after she was rescued. Her death has been ruled accidental.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Orono Police Department are still investigating the incident.

Officials say a family of four from Minnetrista was driving home from a restaurant when the driver, Jonathan Markle, tried to steer the vehicle through a channel and it fell through.

A retired volunteer firefighter who lived nearby was able to pull the parents and their 2-year-old daughter, Isabelle, from the icy water. All are expected to survive.

Rescuers had to take off their cold water protection gear to get into the SUV to rescue Tabitha Markle from her car seat. She was unconscious and was not breathing. They estimate she was submerged for 15 to 20 minutes.

Officials say the ice under the bridge was thinner than in other areas of the lake, and warnings were posted at the time.

Investigators confirmed with FOX 9 News they are waiting for blood test results to see if Markle was driving under the influence, but Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek insisted they will also consider negligence charges and any other factors that lead to what he calls a "senseless death."

"It's always tragic when something like that happens. It didn't have to be this way," Stanek said. "If, in fact, the driver of the vehicle was intoxicated at the time, the charges rise substantially."

Stanek told FOX 9 News investigators are piecing together a possible criminal case against Jonathan Markle, seeking meal and drink receipts from at least one restaurant -- but they are looking into all factors they can.

"We could look at just the behavior component," Stanek said. "Somebody died in this incident, and so this is not to be taken lightly."

The Markles live a stone's throw from the lake in Minnetrista.

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