Police believe Sariyah Michel's diaper was so buoyant, it propelled her out of the submerged car.
"All of a sudden, this little thing popped up like a cork," Deputy Cazi Navarro tells the paper. Navarro rescued the toddler shortly after pulling her mother, Catherine Copeland, to safety.
Police first responded to reports of a couple fighting at a gas station. Witnesses recall seeing Copeland driving the car while Michel hit her, causing the car to swerve and land in the lake, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.
Navarro arrived on the scene shortly afterward and heard Copeland's cries for help.
"She was screaming, 'I don't know how to swim!'" Navarro told The Sun Sentinel.
As the woman was being taken out of the water, deputies said she yelled that her child was still in the car. Police searched for the missing toddler and soon spotted her bobbing toward the surface of the 40-foot-deep lake.
'She kept screaming, 'my baby, my baby,'" deputies said. A white plastic diaper around a 3-year-old served as a possible life-saving floatation device when she was recovered from a Florida lake where her parents' car had crashed
The lucky mom and child were rushed to the hospital and released in critical but stable condition
'You couldn't see anything because it was so dark ... Somebody spotted something in the water. So now as I'm getting to this thing that I found floating in the water, I saw it was a pamper, and attached to the pamper was this little girl,' Navarro recalled.
When police recovered Sariyah she was lifeless but rushed to Joe DiMaggio's Children's Hospital where she was eventually released with her mother, in a critical but stable condition.
A dive team later found the body of the child's father trapped in the car, identified as 27-year-old Sandro Michel.