Two survivors gave differing accounts of the seconds before their SUV plunged into North Alabama's Weiss Lake and killed at least four of the seven passengers.
Kim Learned told Birmingham's CBS 42 that driver Robert Hardin's passengers were "telling him to turn around; that we were going toward the lake." The passengers kept yelling, Learned said, but "he pushed the gas and we went on in."
However, Cherokee County officials on Thursday didn't put much stock in the new details.
Authorities said seven people were in the 2009 Saturn Outlook when it reached the end of Riverside Street and went off a boat ramp into 18 feet of water in Weiss Lake, about 60 miles southwest of Chattanooga.
By daybreak Wednesday, four people were confirmed dead and another was missing. Learned and another woman were treated at a Gadsden hospital and released. A search continued Thursday for the final victim.
The dead were identified as Hardin; Cheryl Hobson; her daughter, Christy Hobson, and Dale Steven Keener, said Cherokee County Coroner Dr. Jeremy Deaton. The victims ranged in age from their 20s to their 40s.
The missing person, Bobby Shore, escaped from the SUV as it went under but never made it to land, Deaton said.
The second survivor posted an account of the ordeal Wednesday on Facebook.
Brittany Nicole Leslie, who said she is the daughter of Cheryl Hobson and sister of Christy Hobson, said Hardin "knew what he was doing I can't go into much detail about it. But I can say Kim Learned is OK, myself am still messed up having trouble after dying twice too [sic] be revived ."
Leslie did not respond Thursday to phone calls requesting comment.
But Deaton said there was no evidence to corroborate the women's stories.
"As far as what the family is saying, we have discussed the case with them again and re-interviewed them, but personally, I'm not putting a lot into what they're saying because their stories have changed multiple times," Deaton said. "We're still investigating, but we just have not found that credible yet.
"But we're not ruling anything out. It's still an active case, especially with the [last] body not being found," he said.
Deaton said analysis of toxicology samples could take up to six months. He ruled the four died from "freshwater drowning" and said no autopsies are being performed.
Regarding whether Hardin was having a medical problem at the time of the crash, Deaton said Hardin "was talking when they went into the water."
He said Hardin's last words "were not incriminating, but we're not releasing what he said."
The missing man's cousin, David Shore, described his relative as a "super guy."
"He was like a brother," he said, adding that he lived with his cousin's family and was an "uncle" to Christy Hobson and Brittany Leslie.
"We're a tight-knit family," Shore said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569.