INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana State Police dive crews successfully pulled out five more cars from the White River Tuesday, more than nine months after an I-Team 8 investigation first uncovered them through sonar images. Their removal may help shed new light on open cases that stretch back more than a decade.
The discovery happened along the east side of White River Parkway, just north of the 16th Street bridge.
Divers and tow truck operators pulled out two Jaguar vehicles, an old Cadillac, a Chevrolet HHR and a Ford Taurus over the span of about six hours, Tuesday. The vehicles were reported stolen in 2001, 2004 and 2012.
Indianapolis Fire Department dive crews pulled out a Nissan Maxima from the same stretch of river on May 21. Late afternoon storms that day cut short efforts to tow additional cars out.
All of the vehicles were severely degraded, rusted and covered in mud.
Divers found each of the vehicles empty, but did recover a rusted .38 caliber revolver on the river bed next to the Cadillac. It will be sent to the Indiana State Forensics lab to be processed.
At least three of the vehicles recovered had been confirmed as stolen by late Tuesday, said State Police Detective Robert May. One of the vehicles had been involved in a carjacking and another in an armed robbery, May said.
May, who serves as the Central Indiana Team Leader on the Indiana State Police Dive Team, said recovering the vehicles was particularly challenging because of both their location and condition.
“This was called in to us by another agency. And, it’s a zero visibility situation. There’s a lot of rebar and cement on the bank, and it was very difficult to even get the first one on,” May said.
Sonar images of the vehicles underwater were first broadcast on 24-Hour News 8 more than nine months ago.
With the help of Illinois based Team Watters Sonar, I-Team 8 captured the images last summer. They showed what appeared to be at least 8 cars piled up on the riverbed in almost the exact same spot that dive crews found them Tuesday. Some images that appeared to be cars were found to be large rocks, May said.
I-Team 8 notified IMPD, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management about the underwater cars in August of 2013. DPW and IDEM spokesmen said at the time that removing the cars could harm the environment.
Both ISP and IFD divers at the river Tuesday said they remained uncertain why the decision was made to remove the cars nine months later.
“When I found out about it, it was winter-time,” May said. “I’m not going to subject divers to a cold water river dive. That’s just a dangerous element. It’s slick out here [even] with the rain water [from Monday storms]. This is just dangerous. Today is a good day, and today was the day we could get everyone out here. So, we’re pulling them out.”
Divers are now satisfied that stretch of the river is cleared of all vehicles, May said, aside from the frame of a pickup truck which will be left as a marine habitat on the river bed.