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WATCH: Chopper 9 video of car raised from river

Posted: 2:47 PM, Mar 24, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-27 04:09:30Z
Police hope to recover car from river Saturday
Police hope to recover car from river Saturday
Police hope to recover car from river Saturday
Police hope to recover car from river Saturday
Police hope to recover car from river Saturday

> WATCH Exclusive Chopper 9 video of crane pulling car out of river in video player above.

FORT THOMAS, Ky. — A solitary diver, almost unable to see at the bottom of  the murky Ohio River, was finally able to recover a Milford man's body and his car Saturday – 11 days after it fell off the Combs-Hehl Bridge, officials said.

Police did not name the victim but said he owned the red Pontiac that fell into the river March 15 during a series of  chain-reaction crashes.

Police did not say if they believe there were others in the car whose bodies may have floated downstream.

Al Garnick, deputy Campbell County coroner, said he would not be able to make positive identification of the man  until an autopsy Sunday. But police said they have been in contact with the man's family since they reported him missing last week.

WATCH video of the car falling into the river.

Good river conditions and sunshine allowed diver Ryan Kendall of Marine Solutions to safely go down to the river bottom, where the car was upside-down in 40 feet of water.

"We were able to get the line very close to the car which put me 2 feet next to the car," he said.

But it was still no easy task for Kendall, who said he could only see about a foot in front of him.

Newscast video:

 "You've got current that you're working against. You've got zero visibility," he said. "It's really no different than you going into a room and closing your eyes and trying to walk around and figure out where you are."

Because the car was upside-down, though, Kendall was able to grab the wheels as he made his way around the car, securing it with straps.  

"I found a rear wheel and was able to work around from that rear wheel to figure out where I was located," he said.

PHOTO GALLERY of car recovery.

Plans to recover any bodies before raising the car had to be scrapped because the car was nearly filled with silt and mud, officials said.

Once Kendall secured the car,  a heavy crane on a barge gingerly pulled it out - upside down. The crane then slowly swung the car over to the barge and delicately lowered it on its top.

Working with the diving company, the Boone County Water Rescue Team, the Campbell County Sheriff's Office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources had a good plan and executed it perfectly, said Capt. Dale Appel of Boone County Water Rescue.

"They did a job that's phenomenal. I mean, fantastic work," he said.

Just after daybreak, a towboat pushed a barge with a heavy crane next to the pier where the car fell into the water. Once they were in place, the rest of the operation took about five hours and was finished about noon. The river was closed at the bridge in the meantime.

Dangerous river currents prevented crews from making any recovery attempts until Saturday. 

"In contrast to the conditions of the past week, the river almost looks like a sheet of glass, it's so calm, so smooth," Carroll reported from Chopper 9.

Carroll cautioned that conditions under the water might be different, then added:

"It looks like just the kind of conditions they were hoping for."

Appel had said they needed to wait for the current to slow to 1.5 mph for the sake of divers' safety. The river was moving at 5 mph last week.

The car was apparently pushed off the side of the bridge in a series of chain-reaction crashes during evening rush hour traffic.

Twelve vehicles were involved in five separate collisions, police said, It started when a semi plowed into cars that had been stopped by a fender-bender near the Kellogg Avenue exit, witnesses said. Police are still investigating what happened and no charges have been filed.

Several motorists called 911 and one reported seeing three heads bobbing in the water, but the caller later said he couldn't be sure he wasn't seeing debris.

LISTEN to some of the 911 calls.

Rescue boats quickly located the car but didn't find any survivors or bodies in the river.

"I feel bad for the family," crash witness Mary Smith said. "I just hope they can just get it out and get it over with for them."

Raw video of the recovery from boat on the river:

 

READ more about the car falling off the bridge and watch exclusive Chopper 9 video.