BATTLE CREEK, MICH. - A car that disappeared in the Kalamazoo River may have been found late Sunday afternoon.
Mike McKenzie, Battle Creek Emergency Services Director, said the car may be under water at the convergence of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek rivers just west of Washington Avenue.
The two-day search has been concentrated in that area since the car was reported in the river about 4:44 a.m. Saturday.
A dive team from Allegan County assisted the search with a six-foot-long, 50-pound magnet that was dropped into the river from an Emmett Township Department of Public Safety boat.
McKenzie said the teams believe the magnet attached twice to an object in the same location.
"It's on something," McKenzie said. "The magnet hit hard twice. We think there is a high probability."
However because of the fast current, estimated at 10 to 20 mph, divers from Allegan, Van Buren and Calhoun counties agreed the conditions are unsafe to go into the water.
McKenzie said the recovery effort was ending shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday and searchers will work on the best way, perhaps with an underwater camera, to determine if the object is a car and if so how to remove it from the river.
In the meantime a buoy is marking the location.
Searchers believe the driver of the car was inside when it crashed through a fence and into the river near Dickman Road and Capital Avenue.
Battle Creek police have received a report of a missing 31-year-old Battle Creek man who was driving a rental car that matched the description of the missing car.
The search Sunday followed a 13-hour search Saturday that ended about 6 p.m. because of the cold and approaching darkness.
Sgt. Brent Lincoln of the Calhoun County Sheriff Department said divers from the Area Law-Enforcement Underwater Recovery Team worked on the search Saturday and on Sunday morning several teams traveled in boats farther downstream.
However they concluded that the water was too shallow for the car to float past the next bridge at Kendall Street, so the search resumed Sunday afternoon near the convergence of the two rivers where the water depth was estimated at 8 to 20 feet.
The search began after Battle Creek police said a motorist reported that the small car passed his vehicle at a high speed, then went off the road and disappeared. Police found evidence of a crash into the concrete channel and later obtained video from Treehouse Foods Inc. at 150 S. McCamly St. showing a small car in the river floating past the factory, with lights still illuminated.
On Saturday divers were tethered and walked in some sections of the river. Boats from the Battle Creek Fire Department and the Emmett Township Department of Public Safety were also used, but without success. Bedford Township Fire Department provided another boat on Sunday.
Underwater divers attempting to search Saturday had to be pulled out of the river -- the current was so swift they were unable to breathe because of pressure on their safety harness.
A Michigan State Police helicopter flew over the river for about an hour but was not able to see the car and a sonar unit was used late Saturday afternoon without success.
The car is described as a small new gray or silver sedan believed to be a Hyundai. A portion of the front bumper was located in the river Saturday.
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Battle Creek Enquirer