John Crain, manager at Hilltop Station, was preparing to open the convenience store near Lucky Peak Reservoir on Thursday morning when he heard pounding on the front door.
“It sounded like he was going to break the door down,” Crain said of the frantic man who came knocking just before 7.
Cellphone coverage out that way is spotty at best, so it’s not unusual for those who need to call 911 to go to Hilltop. The emergency Thursday morning was that a vehicle full of people had gone into the reservoir.
Those people were identified Friday by the Ada County Coroner’s Office as Noel Voermans, 40, and her three children: Gwyneth Voermans, 8, Logan Voermans, 11, and Anika Voermans, 13, all of Boise. They all drowned; the children also suffered blunt force trauma, according to the coroner.
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Little information about the family was available Friday. Public records show that Voermans and her former husband, both graduates of Cambridge High School, got married in 1995. They divorced two years ago.
The father did not want to talk publicly Friday about the deaths, a spokesman for his employer said.
Investigators haven’t determined why Voermans’ Land Rover accelerated off a cliff into the reservoir. There were no signs of braking. The wreckage will be studied to determine whether the SUV had any mechanical problems.
Crain, the Hilltop manager, and others who live and work near Lucky Peak were asking Friday why there aren’t any barriers in the area where the vehicle went into the reservoir. Several said other drivers had gone into the reservoir at the same spot, though the Statesman was unable to verify that Friday.
The area where the car plummeted off the cliff is immediately north of High Bridge, near the intersection of Idaho 21 and Arrowrock Road.
It looks like a gravel parking lot — a place to get a view of the bridge and reservoir, or a pit stop on the way to Spring Shores Marina, which is about a mile down the road.
“I think they ought to put some concrete barriers across that area,” said Dwaine Wright, a Robie Creek resident who was driving to work as emergency personnel were arriving Thursday morning.
Boise County Deputy Dave Lee, who has been with the office 15 years, said Friday that he has been patrolling Arrowrock Road the past five or six years.
“I’m out here on the weekends pretty much as a deterrent for the speeding,” he said. “That is just about 90 percent of the cause of accidents.”
Barriers on the north side of the bridge could stop people from driving — intentionally or unintentionally — into the reservoir at that spot, said Thomas Hidalgo, owner of the boat rental business Outdoor Adventures Inc. at Spring Shores Marina.
Ada County online parcel maps show the gravel parking lot as Bureau of Land Management land, but officials with the BLM and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said late Friday afternoon that the property is actually owned by the Corps of Engineers.
It is a maintenance staging area managed by the Ada County Highway District under an easement, Walla Walla-based Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Gina Baltrusch said. It’s commonly used for road maintenance material and equipment, such as snow plows, gravel and an area to pile snow.
Matt Walker, operations project manager for the Corps of Engineers at Lucky Peak for about a year and a half, said he’d been talking with his staff about what could be done there in terms of a barrier. He said placing boulders could be an option.
“It’s cost-effective, it blends with the scenery and it’s something that we can do in-house,” Walker said. “We’re always keeping (boulder) stock on hand.”
COUNSELORS AT SCHOOLS
The children in the crash attended East Junior High and Riverside Elementary in Boise. The school district offered counseling for staff, students and their families at both schools, and will again from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday with no appointment required.
At East, both families and staff took advantage of talking with counselors Friday, said Principal David Greene. At Riverside, mostly staff had spoken with counselors, Principal Erin Kubena said.
Parents should acknowledge their children’s feelings of loss, Greene said. “Parents need to sit down in a very purposeful way,” he said.
A lot of questions surround the crash, but parents should not feel the need to outline all of those, he said. “They need to stick more to the feelings,” Greene said.
The Statesman’s John Sowell and Bill Roberts contributed.