An Oklahoma Highway Patrol dive team braved 30-degree temperatures to begin the recovery of several vehicles that were submerged off a secluded Rogers County boat ramp on Wednesday.
The cold weather, the vehicles’ deteriorated state and the ramp itself were among the divers’ obstacles. The water temperature in the McClellan-Kerr Navigation Channel was 55 degrees Wednesday morning, troopers said.
“It’s a mess under there. There’s a lot of debris — fishing lines and junk,” Capt. George Brown said.
Using side-scan sonar equipment on Tuesday, the OHP’s Marine Enforcement Division identified 18 vehicles that were submerged at Landing 33 of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation Channel. Brown described side-scan sonar as similar to naval sonar that is capable of transmitting 3-D images.
Most of the vehicles were in a heap within a stone’s throw of the ramp, but a few others are scattered downstream in areas as deep as 20 feet, Brown said.
“We had a feeling that this was an area we may want to look at,” he said, indicating that the way the road dead ends at the ramp makes it a logical starting point in a search for lost automobiles.
Troopers weren’t seeking resolution to any specific incidents or crimes, and Brown said that “we don’t know why (the vehicles) are there.”
Landing 33 is at the end of Rogers County Road 590, which is just south of U.S. 412, on the channel’s east side.
Rogers County authorities are working to crack down on criminal activity at Landing 33.
“It has been a constant problem and is — and will continue to be — a focus of our enforcement efforts for a multitude of reasons,” Sheriff Scott Walton said.
A recent sex-crimes sting occurred at the campsite there, and the area lends itself to car dumping, he said.
“We’re certainly glad to see OHP’s efforts. There’s a lot of work there for everybody,” Walton said.
His agency’s goal is to make the site usable for its intended purpose as a recreational area, he said.
Divers pulled one of an extended-cab pickup’s rear doors out of the murky depths on Tuesday.
The rest of the pickup, a red 2000 Chevrolet Z-71, was recovered Wednesday after more than two hours of finagling by three tow trucks.
Four boats and 22 troopers were on hand as specialized air bags were used to help lift and separate the wreckage. After its extrication, the truck was flipped 180 degrees to dump the silt accumulated in its bed and cab.
By checking the vehicle identification number, troopers discovered that the truck had been reported stolen in Broken Arrow in 2006.
Brown said he expected the find to motivate the team to continue working for several more hours.
“All their efforts paid off,” he said, adding that the vehicle is “the first of many.”
The operation could take weeks or months to complete and might require the use of a barge and crane, Brown said.