CHP: Dead man found inside silver Dodge SUV submerged in Kern River

Posted at 9:15 AM, Jul 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-29 12:15:35-04

BAKERSFIELD, CA. — The Kern County Sheriff's Office recovered a man's body from a submerged SUV vehicle in the Kern River on Sunday.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office search and rescue team spent about four hours this morning fishing the vehicle out of the Kern River near mile marker 18.

"From what I can tell, about a foot and a half, two feet under water, which doesn't sound like a lot but when the water's moving fast and you're trying to get somebody safely on a boat to look at those things, it's kind of difficult to do safely," said Josh Nance, Senior Deputy with KCSO.

"These men and women risk their lives to go down there and we've got divers that have to put the straps on these vehicles to retrieve them," said Robert Rodriguez, a spokeman for California Highway Patrol.

Once it was pulled above water, authorities found a man's body and identified the SUV as a silver Dodge. CHP says that after the SUV left the road, it tumbled down an embankment, before coming to rest at the bottom of the river.

"We don't know how long that SUV had been submerged under water or at what time or even, you know, we're still trying to determine the exact point of entry," Rodriguez said.

The SUV had visible damage sustained to the front and back because of the plunge. It was towed away at around 2 p.m. Officials say they'll now work to I.D. the man they found.

Some are drawing a parallel between Sunday's river recovery, and the case of missing McFarland city manager John Wooner, who was last seen on May 14 at Bakersfield Hillcrest Cemetery driving a silver Dodge Durango with California license plate #1390353.

A license plate was not visible at Sunday's scene.

Officials said they got the call about the vehicle Saturday afternoon, but didn’t start recovery efforts until today.