Cars shown in I-Team 8 sonar investigation pulled from White River

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -  Indianapolis Fire Department dive teams worked to pull a car out of the White River this afternoon. An I-Team 8 investigation last year may provide some clues on how it, and at least three other cars got there.

The discovery happened along the south side of White River Parkway, just north of 16th Street.

But, it wasn’t the first time.

With the help of Illinois based Team Watters Sonar, I-Team 8 captured images last summer showing at least 8 cars piled up on the riverbed in almost the exact same spot.

On Wednesday, Plainfield Police were out on the river with Team Watters training with a new sonar unit they recently purchased when they again saw images of cars under the surface.

So, they called for backup.

IFD dive teams, medics, and a commercial grade tow truck arrived and began the process of locating the cars.

“The diver actually did do a primary search or a beginning search to make sure there wasn’t anything visible within the car itself,” said IFD Dive Commander Captain Scott Huff. “Nothing was found today.”

By 3 p.m., the crews had pulled out a Nissan Maxima, covered in mud. It was so degraded, it had become a marine habitat. Crews found a two-foot catfish swimming inside the back seat as the car was lowered to the ground.

“By the silt add up on it, it could [have been here] several months up to even a year,” said Huff.

And, it isn’t alone.

Sonar images from Plainfield’s training session also identified at least three additional cars underwater, Huff said. Late afternoon storms Wednesday cut short efforts to tow them out.

But, they tell a familiar story.

I-Team 8 notified IMPD, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management about the cars in August of 2013. DPW and IDEM spokesmen said at the time that removing the cars could harm the environment.

The sonar images of the vehicles were broadcast multiple times by I-Team 8 in early September.

Huff said he was unsure Wednesday why the call was made to remove cars, but that older cars are sometimes left in waterways if they are too degraded to remove.

“Sometimes we’ll get them. Sometimes we won’t. Most of them are stolen vehicles. And, we don’t come out and check on a normal basis. It’s usually by call,” he said.

Police said last year that underwater pileups are typical of what’s known as a “steal and dump” ring. An investigation into how the Nissan arrived in the water, and who owns it, is now underway, police at the scene said.

IFD crews will return to the river Thursday, weather pending, to determine which of the other cars will be towed out.

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