POINT PLEASANT — A towboat operator claims to have seen a strange sight Tuesday morning — an SUV floating in the Ohio River.
The sighting touched off a major emergency response to the riverbank around 7:30 a.m. just north of Riverfront Park in Point Pleasant, just above the railroad bridge. The Point Pleasant Fire Department was out in full force with assistance from the Gallia County Sheriff’s Department, a dive team from the Cottageville Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Point Pleasant Police Department.
Joe Veith, chief of the PPPD, said his department was alerted by Mason County 911 of a vehicle reported in the water around 7:25 a.m. The call came in from the U.S. Coast Guard after being notified by the towboat operator. Veith said the towboat operator reported seeing what appeared to be a white or light-colored SUV, noticing its red brake lights first, then the river’s current spun the vehicle around to show its headlines burning. The towboat tried to stay with the vehicle but eventually lost visual contact with it.
Later in the day, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Department was able to spot a large object under the water consistent with the size of a vehicle about 30 to 40 feet off the bank near the West Virginia side of the river, though no visual contact had been made. This item was tagged and a dive team from the Cottageville Fire Department arrived to search the area, but with the deteriorating weather conditions, the search was called off Tuesday afternoon.
Veith also reported a 2008 GMC Arcadia SUV was stolen from a residence on South Park Drive on Tuesday morning in Point Pleasant. Several other vehicles in the area were also broken into. Veith said at this point there is no proof the Arcadia is the same vehicle spotted in the Ohio River.
Veith and personnel with the PPPD also traveled the length of the Ohio River north of Riverfront Park, going as far north as Camp Conley searching for a point of entry where a vehicle could’ve made it into the river. As of Tuesday afternoon, nothing suspicious had been spotted along this path.
The city of Point Pleasant also has security cameras mounted at Riverfront Park and video was being reviewed.
Veith said there had been no reports of any missing persons as of Tuesday afternoon.
Point Pleasant Fire Chief Jeremy Bryant was helping organize and lead the search for the vehicle from the riverbank. West Virginia has jurisdiction over the Ohio River in these types of situations. As of press time Tuesday evening, there was no word on when the search would resume.