A Washington teenager died Friday night after her car ran off Augusta Bottom Road and overturned in a small lake in southern Warren County.
Ella J. Neier, 16, was pronounced dead at the scene by the Warren County coroner about 4:30 a.m. Saturday after a dive team from the Sullivan Fire Protection District helped pull the girl's car from the lake, authorities said.
Washington Fire Chief Bill Halmich said crews with his department responded to assist Marthasville firefighters and put their two marine units in the water. They located the car, on its top in about 8 feet of water, with a large magnet, Halmich said.
The Missouri Highway Patrol reported that Neier was westbound on Augusta Bottom Road in a 2002 Mercury, when the crash happened about 10:30 p.m. She had just left the St. Charles County paved portion of the road and crossed onto the gravel portion in Warren County when her car ran off the right side of the road. Neier overcorrected as she attempted to steer back onto the roadway and the car ran off the left side into the lake, the patrol said.
According to the preliminary patrol report, Neier was not wearing a seat belt.
Found by Friends
Neier, along with several other girls, had been at the house of a friend at Highway 94 and Emke Road after they had gone to the St. Francis Borgia football game at Warrenton. She and three other friends left in separate cars and planned to meet back at Neier's home in Washington.
The three other girls took Highway 94 through Dutzow to Highway 47, but Neier took Emke Road toward Augusta Bottom Road, according to Gary Dobsch, whose home the girls were at.
Dobsch told The Missourian that some media accounts of how Neier's car was found in the lake are incorrect. He said his daughter, who did not go to Washington with the other girls, woke him shortly before 11 p.m. after she received text messages from friends that Neier never showed up at her home.
Dobsch said he and his daughter began driving on Augusta Bottom Road, first toward Augusta, then back toward Highway 47 looking to see if she had run off the road.
"As we went by the water hole, we noticed what looked like ruts leading into the water, and the dust on the road looked different, like water had splashed up on it," he said. "Neither of us wanted to believe that she could have run into the water and we continued on, hoping to find her car off the road."
Dobsch said further on they met the couple who had taken the girls to the football game and they also were searching for Neier. They asked Dobsch if he had noticed what appeared to be tracks of a car going off the road and into the water.
They returned to that point, Dobsch said, and as they approached with headlights pointing in that direction, they saw debris in the water. They then called the Warren County sheriff's office.
Dobsch said he took his daughter home and when he returned to the scene, a Warren County deputy was there along with some boys from Washington who also had been out searching. He said one of the boys then found a soccer ball with Ella's name on it at the water's edge.
Dobsch said some media outlets incorrectly reported that a Warren County deputy driving by found the wreck when he noticed debris in the water. Another reported that Neier's father found the wreck when he was out looking for Ella, which also was not correct, Dobsch said.