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Four Cromwell youths who were in a vehicle that broke down early yesterday allegedly tried to set the car on fire, then "smashed it up" and pushed it into Lake Dunstan, Cromwell police said.
A woman walking her dog at McNulty inlet, near Cromwell, yesterday morning alerted the police after seeing the 1988 Holden Barina submerged in the lake and the Clyde Coastguard was called out and divers put on stand-by, Constable Doug Winter said.
"Eventually, we were able to ascertain that nobody was in the vehicle and it was towed out of the lake."
The four 17-year-old boys who had been in the car would all face charges as a result of the incident, Const Winter said.
The vehicle belonged to one of the boy's parents.
"I spoke to the four boys, who said they were drunk at the time. They'd pushed it in the lake after the car blew up. They'd tried to set it on fire but that didn't work, so they said they'd smashed it up and then pushed it into the lake."
There was an oil slick on the lake about 200m long where the car had been submerged and the Otago Regional Council had been notified about the pollution, he said. The vehicle had been in about a metre of water.
The council's regional services group manager, Jeff Donaldson, said the matter would be investigated. If any costs were incurred in treating the pollution or retrieving the vehicle, compensation would be sought from the people responsible.
"Any dumping of a vehicle is unacceptable," Mr Donaldson said.