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Missing McFarland City Manager's SUV pulled from Kern River

Posted at 10:01 PM, Jul 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 01:01:47-04

BAKERSFIELD,Calif. — On Sunday, a gruesome discovery was made when a body was found inside a submerged SUV just a few miles into the Kern River canyon off highway 178.

Many wondering if it was the silver Dodge Durango of City manager John Wooner, who went missing in May.

“We have positively identified this vehicle as the missing 2012 Dodge Durango that is registered to the city of McFarland,” said Officer Robert Rodriguez, Public Information Officer, for California Highway Patrol to the Bakersfield area.

CHP says they received the call about the vehicle in the river on Saturday but weren't unable to retrieve it until Sunday.

Search and rescue worked three to four hours to pull out the SUV.

“The body that was located in the vehicle was not seat belted and was found in the rear of the vehicle,” said Rodriguez.

CHP and Bakersfield police did not confirm the identity of the man and said that would come from the Kern County Coroner’s office.

A time frame of how long the Durango or body was in the river has not been determined.

Monday makes 76 days since John Wooner disappeared. He was reported missing after he was last seen on the evening of Tuesday, May 14 at Hillcrest Cemetery.

Officials say he was last seen driving a McFarland city vehicle, a Silver Dodge Durango with CA license plate 1390353.

“We are going to comb through the that portion of that canyon off of highway 178 and we want to find out where this vehicle left the roadway and any physical evidence left behind,” Rodriguez said.

CHP says that they are unable to share any further details of the findings inside the vehicle, but add that there was significant damage to the car.

“The vehicle shows collision damage, to major front damage and rear,” Rodriguez said. “And [there was] interior damage and everything consistent of it being involved with a collision.”

23ABC news reached out to the City of McFarland and were told that they are unable to comment until the investigation is complete.

CHP is asking for the public's help. If anyone has any information on this crash, please contact Bakersfield Area CHP at 661-396-6600. And if there is any information related to the missing person's case please contact Bakersfield Police at 661-326-3868.