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Car launches 210 feet onto Minn. lake, driver survives, homeowners stunned

James Sundby of Wadena, Minn., drove his vehicle over an embankment, cleared open water and came to a rest on Lake L'Homme Dieu north of Alexandria, Minn., Saturday morning. Special to Forum News Service

ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—The fact that 38-year-old James Sundby of Wadena is alive after driving his car off an embankment, flying over 210 feet of open water and coming to rest on the ice of Lake L'Homme Dieu is what Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels calls a "miracle."

After surviving the crash, Sundby apparently waded through the frigid lake water and then in and out of a nearby home before law enforcement could find him.

At 3:28 a.m. Saturday, March 11, the Alexandria Police Department received a call reporting that a man had shown up in someone's home covered in blood and stating he had crashed his car.

According to Jim Chan, whose father lives two houses down from where the crash occurred, the embankment Sundby drove off is where North McKay Avenue meets South L'Homme Dieu Drive, just south of the lake.

"My dad said he was awoken from him (Sundby) pounding on the door saying, 'Let me in, I need to warm up,'" Chan said.

Rather than let Sundby in, Chan's father called the police for assistance.

By that point, Sundby had gone on to another house and entered it. Homeowner Andy Armstrong said Sundby had been there an unknown amount of time before awaking him.

"I was awoken by the bedroom light being turned on," Armstrong said. "He was in my house and had been there some time. My TV was on and he'd flipped through the channels because it wasn't on the same channel as when I went to bed. The living room lights were on, kitchen lights, bathroom lights, he even took his shoes off when he came in the house."

Though Armstrong was caught off guard, he says it became apparent that Sundby was unsure what had happened.

"It was almost immediately obvious that he wasn't there to do any harm," Armstrong said. "He was very apologetic and said, 'I'm sorry. I'm in the wrong house. I don't know what's going on.'"

Armstrong asked Sundby to leave his home, but inquired as to whether he needed help.

"He said no and left," Armstrong said. "That's when I called the police. It took about 15 to 20 minutes to find him."

Though the circumstances surrounding the crash are still unclear, Wyffels says drugs and alcohol are not suspected to be a factor and that Sundby faces no criminal charges.

"That fact that guy is even alive is a miracle," Wyffels said.

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