CLEVELAND – Cleveland firefighters spent the day searching the frigid waters of the Cuyahoga River in search of an SUV that plunged into the river early Monday morning.
The SUV appeared to have crashed through a fence and into the river at Riverbed Street and Elm Avenue in the West Flats, near the Center Street Bridge.
Video posted to Instagram showed the SUV floating near the middle of the river and a man who appeared to be the driver climbing a ladder onto the shore.
The man did not appear to be aware of what had happened and could be heard in the video saying he needed a cigarette.
The vehicle sank, and investigators said the man and a group of bystanders seen in the video were no longer there when firefighters arrived.
Chris Fox said he saw the vehicle floating when he was on his way home from work around 2:45 a.m.
“I thought it was a boat at first, then I looked at it and said, ‘gosh, that looks like a car.’ And, sure enough, it was a car,” Fox said.
Fox said he called 911.
“I yelled, and I tried to get somebody’s attention, but I couldn’t see nobody in the car and nobody answered me,” he said.
Coast Guard crews searched the river overnight.
The Cleveland Division of Fire took over the search Monday and used sonar equipment to try to locate the vehicle in the water, which is about 40 feet deep. ‘
A Cleveland Fire boat searched several hundred yards downriver from where the vehicle entered the water.
“Vision is almost null. That’s why we use electronic equipment to find the car,” said Cleveland Division of Fire Assistant Chief Tony Missig. “The water’s cold, there’s a heavy current going through it right now.”
He said once the vehicle was located, crews planned to use a video camera to inspect it and make sure no one else was inside.
“If there’s no one inside that car then salvage operations will be used to remove the car from the water,” Missig said.
He said investigators were also working to find the driver. Police said the driver could face traffic charges.