A teenage couple found dead in a lake after a bush party near Prince George, B.C., over the weekend was asleep when bystanders made a futile effort to stop the SUV the two were in from rolling into the water, says a relative of the 19-year-old boy who died.

Craig Wood

Craig Wood, 19, was attending an after-grad bush party Saturday night at Kwitzil Lake with his girlfriend before their vehicle entered the lake shortly after 4 a.m. PT Sunday. (Facebook)

Trish Howard says her nephew, Craig Wood, had been attending his 17-year-old girlfriend Kendall Moore's after-grad party at Kwitzil Lake, located on the side of Highway 16, about 40 kilometres west of the city.

"They were both inside the vehicle, apparently sleeping, when the vehicle began a slow roll towards the lake," says  Howard in a statement emailed to media.

"This was seen by people in the vicinity, and several people made heroic efforts to try to stop the progress down to the lake. Some of those people were injured in their attempts to save them. We thank them deeply and cannot begin to express our gratitude for their kind efforts."

Howard says police told the family the vehicle, a 1994 GMC Jimmy, came to rest in about six metres of extremely cold water and members of the RCMP dive team were wearing thermal gear in addition to their regular dive gear because the water was so frigid.

Police say the lake, which is also known as Gravel Pit Lake, was the site of a huge party attended by hundreds of teens Saturday night.

The SUV with the two teens in it went into the lake shortly after 4 a.m. PT Sunday. The two bodies were recovered Sunday afternoon from the vehicle.

Family and friends gathered at the lakeside on Monday to mourn the teens. 

Moore's close friend, Ally Striemer, said friends of both teenagers were visiting the lake all day.

"We're just getting together and supporting each other. It's not good for us to be alone right now," she said. 

Family not notified

Howard says the family is upset it had to learn on Facebook something was wrong.

"Family was not first notified that this had taken place until about 9 a.m. and only by piecing together Facebook posts and through contact with friends," she said.

Prince George bush party drownings - Kwitzil Lake, police search

The bodies of Kendall Moore and Craig Wood were discovered inside their vehicle after it was pulled from the water following a lakeside party near Prince George, B.C. (CBC)

"No family should have to find out they lost a loved one by reading a posting on Facebook. That is another part of the tragedy."

Howard said Wood was a "kind, loving, funny, charismatic person" with plans to become a tradesman.

Striemer said Moore was an amazing person, fun to be around, who loved horses and dressing up in cowboy boots.

"I love her very much. I miss her very much and I know she's going to keep looking down on me. She's going to be my angel," Striemer said. 

Teens who were at the party said people had been drinking, but wouldn't say if that included Moore and Wood, or whether it had a role in the accident.

RCMP said in a statement the investigation is in its early stages and investigators had "made no determination" how the vehicle got in the water. 

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With files from the CBC's Belle Puri