Divers try to figure out how to raise sunken truck

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SARANAC LAKE — Salvage crews face logistical challenges removing a truck that sank in Upper Saranac Lake.

Todd Bissonette, a commercial diver from Lake Placid, helped hook two cables to the front of the submerged vehicle last week.

The plan was to slowly winch the truck up, using a scaffolding structure built around a hole in the ice, he said.

But the weight of heavy hauling equipment and the amount of scaffolding needed proved potentially too treacherous for thin ice.

The flat-bed truck, owned by Boyer’s Adirondack Septic Service of Lake Placid, is a pickup used to transport portable toilets. It has a plow on the front and a lift gate on the back, both very heavy pieces of equipment.

Two Septic Service workers used it — apparently without authorization from company owner Richard Boyer — to haul a shanty for ice fishing onto the ice Jan. 23.

The truck broke through and sank in what divers estimate is about 25 feet of water.

As it sits on the lake bottom, the truck appears stable, Bissonette said.

“When I went down, it was just sitting on the bottom on all four tires. It wasn’t tipped over or anything like that.

“To my knowledge, there wasn’t anything leaking out of it at all, no more than you’d find from a boat. The water was clear all the way down to the, well, I’d say the wreck, but it’s a truck.”

Last week, the lake had only about eight inches of solid clear ice and six inches of snowy, chopped ice on top, Bissonette said.

One of the big questions in pulling the truck up and out is whether it would just break through the ice again.

It sank nearly 200 yards out on the frozen lake, centered between both shores.

Crews are now working with floats to try to raise the vehicle to the surface.

“The major problem is trying to determine, once they get the truck to the surface, how they’re going to raise it onto the ice,” Bissonette said.

 

Another commercial diver with ice experience, a former State Police diver, is now assisting the salvage effort, using air bags.

Environmental Conservation officers are monitoring the salvage operation for Department of Environmental Conservation.

Last week, DEC issued tickets to Travis Lewis, 33, of Lake Placid, who drove the truck onto the frozen Back Bay of Upper Saranac Lake.

Lewis faces citations for contravention of water-quality standards and failure to report a release of petroleum into water under Navigation Law, which could net maximum fines of up to $37,500.

Boyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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