A car was sinking in a Florida lake. The trip began outside the dollar store, cops say

Moral of the story: Don’t leave your car running when you do a quick run into the shops.

One Central Florida driver learned that lesson the hard way last Sunday night.

According to a Facebook post from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were notified at around 9 p.m. about a vehicle sinking in Lake Cherry Hill near Poinciana, southwest of Kissimmee.

The PCSO Marine Unit and Underwater Search and Recovery Team responded to the scene. Using highly specialized side-scan sonar, which can detect extremely deep objects that can reach even the ocean floor, the crew was able to locate the vehicle.

The red 2018 Toyota Corolla was approximately 100 feet from shore, submerged in about nine feet of water.

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Divers discovered that the car was unoccupied; three of the four windows were open, as was the trunk.

The Toyota had been reported stolen from the nearby Dollar General by the owner at around the same time that deputies were notified of the car being in the water.

An investigation revealed that the car’s owner had left the car’s ignition on while he was inside the store, and he ended up receiving two tickets after the ordeal. The unidentified man was cited for leaving a vehicle idling unattended, and for illegally parking in a handicap parking space.

As of Friday, a suspect in the theft case had not yet been arrested, according to PCSO spokesman Brian Bruchey. He said surveillance video from outside the dollar store recorded an adult male walking through the parking lot, getting into the idling car and departing the area.

Authorities believed the individual searched the car for valuables then ditched it.

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Comments on the sheriff’s office’s post, which contained such hashtags as #PleaseDontLeaveYourCarUnlockedAndRunning and #DivingForCars, were mixed. Some folks congratulated deputies for a job well done, others felt badly for the individual who trusted society.

“We used to be able to leave our cars unlocked and go into the store,” wrote one social media user. “Now you need security cameras on everything you own locked or not.”

“Wow,” complained another. “Y’all still cited the guy! He has probably enough to deal with already. Geesh!”

“Nothing quite like blaming the victim!” ranted yet another.

The PCSO finally responded to the online backlash: “Patrol deputy, Marine Unit and divers responded as an emergency, not knowing whether there was anybody in the submerged car. Resources were wasted due to a vehicle being left unattended...”

At least one person sided with law enforcement for ticketing the owner: “Who leaves the car running and obviously unlocked while going into a store or gas station? That’s stupidity at its best.”