VIDEO: Crews Pull SUV from Wisconsin River
By Brandi Makuski
Emergency crews on Saturday night were called to Bukolt Park after a fisherman reported finding a submerged vehicle about five inches beneath the surface of the Wisconsin River.
The man’s boat bumped against the underwater vehicle about 20 yards south of the Bukolt Park boat landing, witnesses said.
The fisherman called 911 at 6:51 PM on May 6, prompting a quick response from Stevens Point police, Portage Co. deputies, the Stevens Point Fire Dept. and water rescue team, along with responders from Hull Fire and the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources.
Witnesses said the fisherman marked the vehicle’s location using an empty water bottle and some fishing line to fashion a buoy.
Using scuba gear, Stevens Point firefighters conducted an initial underwater search, looking for bodies through the vehicle’s windows, and also to determine if the SUV was caught on anything that would make extraction difficult.
Johnson’s Towing needed a little under two hours to pull the vehicle from the muck of the Wisconsin River bed and secure all four tires on the ground.
Assistant Police Chief Mike Rottier said a heavy response was protocol in such a situation, because initially no one knew how long the vehicle, later found to be a late-model Chevy Trailblazer, had been submerged, or whether there were any victims to save or bodies to recover.
Thankfully, Rottier said, the vehicle contained no passengers, and there was “no sign” of victims needing help.
“The keys were still in it; it was in neutral,” Rottier said, adding since all the windows were rolled up, it appeared the vehicle was “likely pushed” from a park’s boat landing several yards to the north, then was carried by the current to where it was found.
Water rushed from the vehicle when officers opened the doors, indicating the vehicle had completely filled with water, but nothing else fell from the inside.
A quick computer search found the cover was reported stolen from Wisconsin Rapids, and the license plates on the vehicle were stolen from Wausau, but Rottier couldn’t immediately say when.
“The vehicle is headed for impound now, and this becomes a case for Wisconsin Rapids and Wausau police,” he said. “But today, this is a happy ending.”
*This story will be updated.