Submerged VW found, reeled out of Androscoggin River

RUMFORD — “Got it!” yelled the salvage crew inside the Bethel Fire Department's rescue boat.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Salvage crewmen Steve Vining, in back from left, and diver Chris Bryant, ready to lower underwater video cameras into the Androscoggin River Reflection Pool below Pennacook Falls Dam on Saturday morning in Rumford while searching for a 2002 silver Volkswagen Passat that rolled into the pool early Friday morning. In front are Shawn MacFarland, left, and Bethel fire Chief Mike Jodrey.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Tyson Hanson's 2002 silver Volkswagen Passat is hydraulically reeled to shore from the depths of the Androscoggin River during Saturday's salvage work at the 13-acre Reflection Pool below Pennacook Falls Dam in Rumford.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

A shirtless Tyson Hanson, 20, of Rumford, reacts to comments from friends after a salvage crew found his 2002 silver Volkswagen Passat in about 30 feet of water late Saturday morning in the Androscoggin River's Reflection Pool in Rumford. He said the car rolled into the river from the Information Center parking lot off Route 2 while he was loading items from another car into it.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

A large crowd watches Saturday's four-hour search and salvage of a submerged 2002 Volkswagen Passat that rolled into the Androscoggin River early Friday morning.

They were 75 minutes into Saturday morning's second-day search of the Androscoggin River for Tyson Hanson's silver 2002 Volkswagen Passat.

“They found it!” immediately echoed the cry from a large crowd gathered to watch the spectacle at the river's 13-acre Reflection Pool below Pennacook Falls Dam.

In the second boat trip, salvage diver Chris Bryant of Rumford unwittingly dropped an underwater video camera right on top of the Passat's rear license plate.

“It was pure luck,” he said afterward. “I'm like, 'There's an 8! There's a 2! It says Maine!'”

The car was nose down over a rock in 25 to 30 feet of water with its hood open, he said. The current had moved it about 400 feet from where it went in to within 25 feet of the western shore.

Early Friday morning, Hanson, 20, of Rumford watched his car roll quickly down an embankment at the J. Eugene Boivin Park from the Rumford Information Center parking area and disappear into the river's dark depths.

Hanson said he was with a friend and transferring things from her car to his when he turned and realized his car was no longer behind him.

He had left the engine running and in neutral with the emergency brake off when it began rolling backward and pushed an unlocked gate open. The car picked up speed as it rolled 50 yards down the rocky hill and into the river.

A search later Friday morning by scuba diver Ed Carey failed to find the car.

Then Shelburne Dam on the Androscoggin in Shelburne, N.H., stopped releasing water. By Saturday morning, the river had dropped by 4 feet at Rumford, greatly reducing the current, said Brad Adley of Adley's Towing Service.

“Shutting the dam down really helped,” he said prior to the search. “The challenge is finding the damn thing.”

With a few Rumford firefighters and Med-Care Ambulance there for crowd control and safety, Bethel fire Chief Mike Jodrey backed the rescue boat down to the water's edge.

At about 9:45 a.m., a salvage crew consisting of former Weld fire Chief Steve Vining, Bryant and Shawn MacFarland headed out in the boat.

Jodrey motored about 400 feet toward the western shore where Friday's searching efforts had stopped. Bryant said they had seen a sheen from vehicle fluids and bubbles surfacing.

Adley said the insurance holder on Hanson's car payed for the salvage work.

The water was 62 degrees and murky, Bryant said.

The boat returned to shore to drop Vining off. Then Jodrey, Bryant, MacFarland and Dale Roberts went to work again with underwater cameras and an underwater metal detector.

Roberts saw something on the monitor from his camera. Jodrey stopped the boat and Bryant dropped his camera into the murk at 11 a.m. and hit the license plate.

Firefighters moved the crowd to the parking lot in case a tow cable snapped.

Cable from Adley's tow truck was taken by boat to the location, where Bryant and fellow scuba diver Ed Carey swam to the car and attached the cable to the rear axle.

The Passat was hydraulically reeled in by Adley's 18-year-old son, David, until a rear wheel surfaced at 12:52 p.m.

The upside-down car was hauled up on its side, flipped over and reeled onto dry ground at 1 p.m.

Mud was piled on the dashboard. The driver's side and part of the roof was crunched in. The front bumper was barely attached.

Adley estimated damage to the demolished car at up to $9,000.

Hanson retrieved some personal items before father and son Adley hauled it onto a flatbed, up to the parking area, and away.

Bryant thanked Vining for use of the underwater cameras.

“We would have been there a long time looking for it if we didn't have his equipment,” Bryant said.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

:)

Whatcha fishin' for?

Passat

What kind of fish is that?

 's picture

Wow..left the car in

Wow..left the car in neutral..no e-brake on......the cost of retrieving the car is at least going to equal the loss of the vehicle! I can't imagine getting any money from the insurance company for this! The e-brake is there for a reason,dude!

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