The car entered Lake Wire from Sikes Boulevard across from the former Florida Tile site. The tracks in the ground are from the tow truck, not the car. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

A 35-year-old woman and her two sons, ages 4 and 9, were found dead inside their car, which was submerged in Lake Wire, early Friday morning. Lakeland’s police chief said detectives are “working to determine why the mother drove into the lake with her two children.”

Lakeland police said they received a call at about 5:30 a.m. to investigate a submerged vehicle. A responding officer located the car about 15 feet from the shoreline on the west side of the lake.

Members of the Lakeland Fire Department and the LPD dive team found the woman in the submerged car. The driver’s side window was down. After the car was removed from the lake, the bodies of the two boys were also found.

LPD officials wrote in a press release that “preliminary information indicates that this was not a traffic crash, and there were no apparent signs of trauma on any of the people in the vehicle.”

The car entered the lake off of Sikes Boulevard, jumping a curb and the sidewalk and steering between a palm tree on the left and a cypress tree on the right. Straight ahead, in the middle of the lake, was a lighted Christmas tree that is placed there every year.

Kim Seaboldt told Tampa’s ABC Action News she witnessed the incident as she was driving south on Sikes Boulevard to go to work Friday morning. She said the car, which was in front of her, made a U-turn at Lake Wire Drive and started heading north on Sikes but then made a “deliberate” right turn into the lake.

Seaboldt said she couldn’t believe what she saw but called 911 because she’s not a strong swimmer.

All three of the car’s occupants were taken to the medical examiner’s office for autopsies.

The names of the three are being withheld until next of kin are notified.

“I’m deeply saddened by the event that occurred at Lake Wire earlier this morning, especially during this holiday season,” Police Chief Sammy Taylor said. “Detectives are currently working to determine why the mother drove into the lake with her two children. Once the Medical Examiner completes their evaluations, we hope to know a lot more. Give your kids a hug and cherish every moment you have with them.”

LPD’s press release noted no additional information is expected to be released this weekend.

Investigators at the scene on Sikes Boulevard. | Video provided by Lakeland Police Department.

This was the second time in a week that a vehicle with a child inside entered the lake. On Christmas Eve, a 6-year-old girl had to be pulled from a truck partially submerged in Lake Wire after her father, who was allegedly fleeing from a hit and run accident, was speeding on Bay Street and failed to turn onto Lake Wire Drive, witnesses said.

The girl was pulled to safety by a passerby. Clinton Eric Bishop, 44, of Tampa, is facing charges of reckless driving, assault on a law enforcement officer, and leaving the scene of a crash with property damage.

Authorities remind those struggling with mental health issues to call 988, the national mental health hotline.

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Kimberly C. Moore

Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

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