By Todd Melby
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Five young children were seriously injured after the car they were riding in veered off a rain-slicked highway ramp and slid into a near-freezing pond in the Minneapolis area on Thursday morning, officials said.
The children, ages 1-7, were rescued about a half hour after the car plunged into the pond.
The children were unresponsive after being rescued from the car, which slid 40 feet down an embankment into a retention pond, said Jamie Zwilling, spokesman for St. Louis Park, a suburb just west of Minneapolis.
The children all suffered serious injury, according to the Minnesota State Patrol website. They were being treated at Hennepin County Medical Center and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital; the hospitals would not release further information.
The driver, identified as 23-year-old Marion N. Guerrido of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, is the mother and stepmother of the children, Lieutenant Eric Roeske, spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol, said.
Witnesses said they heard Guerrido, who was apparently uninjured in the incident, calling for help.
"I could see someone screaming, 'Help me! Help me! Help me!" said Jeffrey Robertson, 40, of St. Louis Park, who was in a nearby second-story apartment and called 911.
Robertson, who said Guerrido was standing knee deep in the water, could not see the car from his vantage point.
When he learned there were children in the water, "My heart just sank," he said.
A passerby, Joel Oine, also of St. Louis Park, tried to rescue the children but could not, according to Roeske. Initially, first emergency responders also were unable to reach the children, Roeske said.
"Because of the cold water and depth they were unable to rescue anyone," said Roeske. A water rescue team was able to remove the children, and a tow truck pulled the car from the water.
Roeske said police were investigating what caused the car to go off the ramp, which does not have guard rails, and whether the children were in seat belts or car seats.
An emergency call was received at 6:10 a.m. local time and the last victim was retrieved at 6:55 a.m. The water was about nine feet deep where the car sank, Roeske said.
The children were identified as Aliyana E. Rennie, age 1; Zarihana M. Rennie, 6; Zenavia C. Rennie, 5; Alarious M. Coleman-Guerrido, 7; and Amani N. Coleman-Guerrido, 5, all of Brooklyn Center, according to the Minnesota State Patrol website.
(Reporting by Todd Melby in Minneapolis, Brendan O'Brien and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Leslie Adler)