Dive crews wade through dangerous waters to recover stolen car from Missouri River

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Police say a car recovered from the Missouri River on Monday was reported stolen from Overland Park on Sunday night. FOX 4 was there as crews hoisted it from the river early Monday evening.

Crews navigated some dangerous conditions to do it. The white, four-door car went into the water near 1000 Riverfront Road according to police. They contacted the owner, and say the owner is okay. Exactly what happened before the stolen vehicle plunged into the river is not yet known.

However, authorities breathed a sigh of relief when it was recovered empty.

“There were no people inside the vehicle, which was our worst nightmare. We were hoping that no one would be found inside the vehicle,” said KCPD Officer Darin Snapp.

Looking along the river, you could tell that locating the car was no easy job.

“Here on the Missouri River the visibility is zero, because of all the silt that’s suspended and constantly moving,” said Sergeant Charles Hoff with the Missouri Highway Patrol dive team.

The team assembled from across the state, and spent much of Monday trying to locate the car, after local teams called off the search Sunday night due to dark and dangerous conditions. Sgt. Hoff says his crew of six divers also faced fast-moving water, at about 3-to-5 miles an hour.

"With the force of the water, it’s hard to stay in place and do the work that you’re trying to do against a force like that,” said Sgt. Hoff.

They dodged objects that were visibly floating on the river, and the ones they couldn’t see like a sunken barge that has started to break apart.

“We were working over the decks of that, and you know the stuff sticking up off of it, and you just have to feel your way along,” said Sgt. Hoff.

He said once they reached the car, things got even tougher as crews worked to attach it to tow cables. Then, once it was lifted, came the unsettling suspense of waiting to see what was inside. In this case, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

"I’d prefer not to ever have to pull the car out with a missing person in it, but by the same token, when we do that we’re helping the family waiting at home to find out what happened to them,” said Sgt. Hoff .

The dive team trains monthly in zero-visibility conditions to prepare for recoveries like the one that happened on Monday, according to Sgt. Hoff. Since the car was stolen from Overland Park, that city’s police department will now investigate.