Howley Lake is the site of a crucial point in the search for answers- Sutton Mercer's car went into the lake, and a message left for her twin sister (along with a scrap of Sutton's dress), instructing Emma Becker to continue pretending to be Sutton, or she would be next. The Howley Lake incident raised the stakes, and indicated things were much more dangerous than any of them had yet realized.
It was later discovered that Derek Rogers had hidden in the back of Sutton's car- his instructions were to bring her to a parking lot to meet someone, but he frightened her and the car went into the lake with both of them inside. Derek panicked, got himself out of the car and swam for shore- Annie Hobbs' tried to get him to help her, but unsuccessful, jumped into the lake to rescue Sutton herself, afterward bringing her to the Range Creek Motel to recuperate.
Derek was later picked up walking down the road by Officer Dan Whitehorse, who gave him a ride home after Derek claimed his car had broken down by the lake.