MURKY FIND: An overturned car is dragged from the bed of the Fitzroy River at the north side boat ramp upstream from the barrage.
MURKY FIND: An overturned car is dragged from the bed of the Fitzroy River at the north side boat ramp upstream from the barrage. Chris Ison

Drama as car sinks into river

TWO plain-clothed police officers raced down a concrete boat ramp in North Rockhampton yesterday, scanning the Fitzroy River for a sinking car.

They were ready to dive into the murky water if people were inside but the submerged vehicle couldn't be seen.

They were forced to call in back-up and an emergency rescue operation.

The alarm was raised around 10.15am by a woman on the southern bank of the river after she saw the car bobbing near the boat ramp on the north side near the barrage.

“I was about to say, 'Look at that car, it's floating!' and then it was gone, as quickly as that,” she said.

The first police officers on scene did not know whether anyone was inside the sinking vehicle as no one had seen it enter the river.

Within minutes three fire engines, two ambulances and police cars were at the ramp and officers were cordoning off a crime scene.

At least 20 emergency services crews scanned the river.

Two fishermen in a tinny were called across to the ramp to help search.

Firefighters dragged a grappling hook along the river bed, trying to snag it on the submerged vehicle.

Scenes of crime police officers took photos of a hill to the side of the boat ramp where it is believed the car rolled down before it ended up in the river.

An SES boat arrived at the ramp and did some patrols before a diver was called in.

Using the grappling hook and a long pole, firefighters and SES crews on the river managed to locate where they thought the car had come to a halt.

Robert Freitag, from Capricorn Reef Diving, was at work when police phoned him for the urgent dive.

As Mr Freitag began diving, police warned media and other spectators that if a body was located in the car they would be made to evacuate the area as the car was winched out.

Mr Freitag pulled on scuba gear and started diving around 11.50am.

It took him about 10 minutes to locate the car, which was about 20m from the boat ramp.

Mr Freitag surfaced to say the car was on its roof and all windows were down. From his investigation, Mr Freitag told police the car was empty.

A 40m tow truck cable was dragged into the murky water and Mr Freitag hooked it to the vehicle. As the two-door Holden Barina was being pulled to the surface police had started investigating a theft.

The woman who spotted the car was the only person to see it in the river. She told The Morning Bulletin she was having a cigarette with a friend when she saw what looked like a bronze or metallic brown car.



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