These are the children killed in the lake plunge tragedy. One-year-old called Bol, four-year-old Madit and his twin sister Anger.
- One-year-old called Bol, four-year-old Madit and his twin sister Anger died
- Another girl aged five remains in a critical condition
- Their 35-year-old mother Akon Guode, who was driving the car, has been released from police guard in hospital
- Ms Guode had a total of seven children
Police are investigating what led to the horror plunge that claimed the lives of one-year-old Bol and four-year-old Madit and his twin sister Anger.
Their five-year-old sister Awel is fighting for life in the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Their Sudanese mother, Akon Guode, who was behind the wheel when the car ploughed into Lake Gladman on Manor Lakes Boulevard in Wyndham Vale at 3.40pm yesterday, has been released from police guard in hospital.
The car plunged into Lake Gladman in Wyndham Vale.
Ms Guode, from Wyndham Vale, is well known among the close-knit migrant community in Melbourne’s west.
She has not been interviewed over the tragic incident but she is assisting homicide squad and Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives with their investigation.
Ms Guode had a total of seven children.
A relative described the young victims as angels.
“We will never forget you little angels,” Tety Chol Malual said.
Police have urged members of the Sudanese community to come forward and provide information about the family.
“We need to understand what led to this, we need to understand what was happening in their lives,” Superintendent Stuart Bateson said.
“Hopefully this will lead to a greater understanding of what led to this incident. We appeal especially to the Sudanese community who might know what was happening in this family’s life, what their movements were before this tragedy.”
There remained limited information about the crash including whether the vehicle was speeding nor any direct evidence at this point.
Assessing the car’s speed was a focus today.
It was “way too” early to say if the mother could face charges and the homicide squad was currently interviewing her.
“In a situation like this the seriousness of what’s harness her today we always start off with getting the best investigators involved.”
Today a large group of people who had earlier been at the family home laid flowers and soft toys at the scene, weeping uncontrollably.
One woman needed help to walk.
Police at the scene. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Tributes for the dead children. Picture: Hamish Blair
A relative who spent the night at the hospital said the family was “devastated.”
Thomas Kok, the cousin of the children’s father, Joseph Tito Manaang, said the family had moved from South Sudan in 2008.
Missy Wiw, a sister-in-law of the children, said the incident was “just devastating”.
“They’re (the children) in a better place now,” she said.
She spoke at the family home as at least a dozen relatives came to grieve together this morning.
Wailing could be heard from inside the home as the family tried to cope with the tragedy.
Ms Wiw said the family wanted to know how and why Ms Guode’s car ended up in the lake.
“We’re trying to find out how she lost control of the car and what really happened,” she said.
Madol Padem, a Sudanese religious leader, said: “We did not expect that to happen.”
Family friend and community member Maciek Nek said: “It’s a big loss to us. It’s a big loss to that whole community of Australia.”
“She came down here to have a better life,” Mr Nek said of the mother.
Victoria Police spokeswoman Belle Nolan said police have spoken to several onlookers but were appealing for any other witnesses to come forward.
“It’s believed the grey 2005 Toyota Kluger 4WD was travelling south towards Pedder St and Minindee Rd when the incident occurred,” Ms Nolan said.
“Police particularly wish to speak to anyone who saw the car between 3.30pm and 3.45pm.”
The 4WD remains partially submerged in the lake, which has been blocked off by police.
Martha Mayola, whose children walk to school at Manor Lakes College with some of those from the family involved, said: “I say thank you for Australia and the people here in Wyndham Vale.
“They really support us. Today we see a lot of flowers here. Thank you for your support.
“We are really sad because we lost our children. These children, they walk to school with my children. We don’t know why the car go through the water. But when you find out what has happened we need big support in our community. So this will not happen again.”
She implored the community to rally behind the kids left behind.
“There are some children left. I say to the community look after those children well. We need a very strong community. If there is something — we need to see what is the problem and we need to solve the problem if there is a problem.”
In frantic scenes yesterday, witnesses desperately smashed the windows of the car after it plunged into the water 25m from the shore.
Supt Bateson said “we don’t know why, we don’t know how” the car entered lake, about 38km west of Melbourne’s CBD.
“What we do know is that when the car left (the road) passers by and police members got some of the children out and did CPR.
“Unfortunately two of the children passed away (at the scene).”
The third child died after being flown to hospital.
Supt Bateson said police were unsure whether the car was driving erratically before entering the lake.
“What we do know is that we have a very tragic set of circumstances here and it is going to be a very harrowing investigation,” he said.
He said “everyone”, including police, had been affected by the tragic scene.
Mark England, 42, came down to the lake last night after hearing sirens blaring.
“I thought it might have been a hoon driver, so it was a bit shocking to realise it was a family,” Mr England said.
He said at least four firefighters leapt into the water after realising the children were trapped.
“The fireys were starting to resuscitate some people, and I could tell they were children,” he said.
“Then they must have realised somehow that there was another missing person and they started looking and opening the doors of the car.”
His neighbour, who is also a firefighter, found another child in the water.
“They’d been in the water the whole time I was there, so it was quite a while,” Mr England said.
The Wyndham Vale resident, a father of two, said the area was full of young families.
“We’re a small, growing community with lots of families. Everyone is affected because most people have kids around here,” Mr England said.
Caitlin Gough, who was visiting a friend just streets over, was among the first to reach the lake.
“We heard fire sirens and people screaming,” she said.
“We came out to see what was happening and it was chaos.
“There wasn’t many people here so I walked around (the lake) because I thought maybe I could do something.
“They had three kids out by that time.
“People were standing around and getting down on the banks so we knew something was really wrong.
“The fire brigade opened the boot and then they found this other little kid.
“I don’t know how old he was but he was limp.
“I just don’t understand how the car got there — it’s in the middle (of the lake).”
Kiera Sieh laid flowers at a makeshift shrine with her two sons, aged 4 and 6.
“It’s not nice something like this happening especially in your own backyard when you’ve got kids,” Ms Sieh said.
“I was pretty grateful putting them to bed last night.”
Fighting back tears, Ms Sieh said she wanted to pay her respects to the three children who died in the incident.
Some residents vowed to leave their porch lights on tonight in a tribute to the children.
The gesture appears to have been started by local Georgie Low who posted on Facebook about the idea yesterday.
“Hey guys, I’m leaving my porch light on tonight to remember those poor children that passed away in our community today.
“Let’s shine a light together now that they are shining down on us. RIP angels x.”
The idea quickly drew support, with almost 400 people commenting they’ll do the same, sharing the idea and liking the post.
Ms Low added: “Just something small we can do to say we’re all together in our sorrow for these innocent children x.”
Ms Low’s husband, Steve, a CFA volunteer at Wyndham Vale Fire Station, broadened the idea to include emergency services workers.
“So very tragic. Regardless of the circumstances, this is very sad day for all involved.
“Shine a light for not only the little souls but also for my mates and fellow Firefighters from Wyndham Vale who attended today.
“Many of these guys have young children of their own and will no doubt be terribly saddened by today’s events.”
Premier Daniel Andrews paid tribute to the onlookers who tried to rescue the children from the car.
“I’m really proud that local residents put themselves at risk and jumped in to try and save those kids,” he said.
“That’s something we should all be really really proud of, just that instinctive doing the right thing when it’s called for.’’
He said it was “a horrible, horrible tragedy”.
“Our thoughts and our prayers and our best wishes and hearts go out to the family involved — to all of those who loved those three little kids,” he said.
Mr Andrews said Victorians should also spare a thought for police and paramedics who attended the scene.