Two people were killed in a crash in Niles this past weekend.
Twenty-six-year-old Steven Rough and 29-year-old Autumn Mehl were found by a volunteer search party Sunday morning.
Police say they were last seen leaving Jay's Lounge early Saturday morning. They were found in a car in a creek about 10 minutes from the bar.
On Wednesday, police revealed that Mehl was driving with a blood alcohol level of .14, almost double the .08 legal limit.
An investigation is still ongoing.
Police say that the autopsy of Autumn Mehl and Steven Rough show their cause of death was drowning.
The two Niles residents were found dead on Sunday after being reported missing Saturday.
The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department was notified around 5:30 p.m. Saturday that 26-year-old Steven William Rough was missing. Shortly after that, 29-year-old Autumn Chantell Mehl was reported missing as well.
“The deputies on the afternoon and midnight shift began conducting interviews with the people that called them missing, family members, last known people they were with and tried to backtrack their evening,” explains Lt. Trent Babcock who works with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. “The midnight shift guys spent a lot of hours walking and looking for slide-offs and putting several miles on the car, trying to see if they located a slide-off or some kind of accident somewhere.”
Rough and Mehl were still not found by Saturday night. Police say they were last seen at Jay's Lounge in Niles. The bar is about 10 minutes away from where the car crashed.
Sunday morning, volunteers met at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA to search for the two. Shortly after 9 a.m. a volunteer contacted police stating that they believe they found the missing vehicle on Bond Street near Fort Street.
Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, Michigan State Police, Niles City Police Department, Niles Township Fire Department, Niles City Fire Department as well as SMCAS ambulance responded to the scene.
The vehicle was located upside down in a creek, submerged. At that point a tow truck arrived and helped get the car upright. It was then that officials found two people inside, a man and a woman. The two victims were removed and were later identified as Steven William Rough and Autumn Chantell Mehl by family.
Lt. Babcock says it is about a 10 to 12 foot drop from the road into the creek. He believes the water in the creek is about four feet deep. He says there is no guard rail and says it looks like the car spun, but the investigation into what caused the car to end up in the creek is still under investigation.
“I think it is going to be very difficult for them to reconstruct it. One, because of the weather and the time that has passed and also because the amount of people that were on scene trying to help. I think it is going to be difficult for them but they do a great job,” adds Lt. Babcock.
Community members say Steven had one child and Autumn left behind a husband and five kids.
Wynter Dulemba is the manager at “The Nuggett” in Niles and she say, Autumn was “full of love and that's all she wanted from everybody. For everybody to be happy and feel loved when she was around, just a bright spirit."
NewsCenter 16 talked to Lacey Peters who knew Autumn well. She says Autumn has worked at the YMCA in Niles for about seven years and Peters was her supervisor. Peters says when Autumn didn’t show up for work Saturday she knew something was wrong. She says Autumn would always call even if she was going to be five minutes late. She says Autumn leaves behind three biological kids and two step kids.
We were also able to speak to one of Steven’s friends, McCade Reese. Reese says he has known Steven for about 8 years now. He says they knew each other through high school and always hung out.
“I believe he was driving a truck for homemakers, it is a big business. He actually delivered some products to some of my jobs that I do. I build houses, so I have seen him around some job sites around Notre Dame,” says Reese.
Reese says Steven was an outgoing, loving and caring guy that never started trouble and never did anything bad. He says he always liked to have fun and loved hanging out with his son who he believes is a little over one.
“I couldn’t believe it. It is a tragedy. It really is, it really is. I couldn’t believe it. I just thought he could have been somewhere in a hotel room instead of this. It wasn’t even 24 hours and they reported him missing and you know, I thought he just got a hotel room with a girl and hung out,” continues Reese.
Reese had one final message for his friend, “I love you man. I just saw him last week, it is crazy. I can’t believe this. Rest easy my friend.”
No foul play is suspected and the contributing factors are currently unknown.