A large SUV drove through a residential yard early Friday in Ramsey and stopped briefly before it plunged into a shallow spot in the Mississippi River, and one of two men in the vehicle disappeared and is presumed dead, authorities and a witness said.
Shortly after 1:30 a.m., police raced to the scene, a stretch of the river behind the 6100 block of Rivlyn Avenue, along the eastern shore. The vehicle left Rivlyn, cut through the yard at the end of the cul-de-sac and drove into the river until stopping about 175 yards from shore, said Police Chief James Way.
A 42-year-old man in the vehicle, a Hummer, was brought to shore and appeared to be intoxicated, police said. The man, taken to a hospital suffering from hypothermia, was uncooperative with officers and provided only vague answers to their questions, police added.
The search for the missing man, a 39-year-old from Ramsey who is the Hummer’s owner, was called off Friday night.
The vehicle was pulled from the water Friday afternoon. For some hours, it had remained halfway out in the river, pointing north against the current and with water up to its headlights.
A purposeful plunge?
A woman who lives at the residence saw the drama play out and said she suspects the vehicle was purposely driven into the river.
Kelly Bochenski said the Hummer cut through her yard, avoided trees and a shed and then stopped at the river’s edge, headlights illuminating the river. It then entered the water and hit a sandbar, Bochenski continued.
“Those people knew what they were doing,” she said. “They sat and thought about it, and that’s the weirdest thing. I instinctively knew someone was going to drive into the damn river.”
Way confirmed that investigators are questioning the man who survived and looking into whether the man behind the wheel meant to drive into the river.
“It’s not like they slid off the roadway,” Way said. “And we do have reason to believe the people had been drinking. People do strange things.”
Way added that this would “not be the first time” he’s heard of such a scenario. “I’ve heard and seen other times when people have tried it.”
Bochenski said she and the officers who were first to arrive saw one of the men on top of the Hummer and then in the shallow water trying to run with the current toward the woods. Moments later, he disappeared, she added.
Police said one of their officers shouted to that person, but there was no indication that the man heard anything.
A fire department rescue boat was about to be launched when he fell from sight for the last time, police added.
“That water is very cold,” Way said. “We are confident that he didn’t make it to shore.”
Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report.
Cody Nelson is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482
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