UPDATE: Man found in car in water in Coopersville

1:31 AM, Dec 26, 2012   |    comments
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  • Larry Stearns
  • Crews are attempting to pull a car from the water.

POLKTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) A West Michigan hunter who disappeared Christmas Eve was found Christmas evening in his car in the Grand River.

29-year-old Larry Stearns never came home from checking his hunting traps.

His mother contacted WZZM 13 asking for help, and the family also recruited people to search for him.

In the end, deputies found him in the river near Bur Oak Landing in Polkton Township.

Investigators don't know why or how he got there.

A day meant to bring peace and joy turned into a nightmare for the family of Stearns, who is a husband and father of three.

"He was in the automobile when it was pulled from the river," said his grandfather, Lloyd Stearns.

Stearns said the vehicle ended up in the Grand River after a bizzare turn of events that started Christmas Eve.

"Knowing Larry as we know Larry, this was completely out of character to not be home when he said he was going to be home last night. So everything from there was, was concerning," he said.

He said Larry told co-workers he was going to check his trap-line after work Monday, but nobody knew of his whereabouts until a canoeist, who was out searching for him, called in around 4 pm. on Tuesday.

"And found the car submerged in the water with just its antenna showing," said Ottawa County Sheriff's Sergeant Brian Buter.

Buter believes Stearns' car went in at the boat launch and drifted about 300 feet down river.

"There is an extremely strong current, that's why we had to turn over the rescue efforts."

Divers were called in, but the search took a few hours because the cold water made it impossible for them to stay in for more than a few minutes at a time. In addition, the vehicle was hard to get out because it was stuck in the very bottom of the river.

It finally did come out at 6pm Tuesday.

"I don't think you can describe the feeling," said Stearns.

Members of his family gathered in tears, as search and rescue shielded his car with a blue tarp to hide his body.

"It's uh, gonna be a rough night, a rough few days, a lot of days, his wife and children are going to have to get by without him," said Stearns.

They'll have to get by for all Christmases to come and try to remember him without remembering this.

His grandfather will be left with memories of Stearn's passion for his kids, hunting and fishing.

"Great family man, he took a great interest in the kids, spent time with him teaching them and so on," he said. ""I couldn't ask for a better grandson."




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