Volunteer divers help pull truck out of the Chena River

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Members of the Test the Waters Public Safety Dive Team used their skills to help the State remove a truck that had fallen through the ice into the Chena River. The volunteer team hooked a cable to the vehicle so a tow truck could winch it out of the river.

Divers on Saturday helped recover a truck from the Chena River that had fallen through the ice last winter. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Alaska State Troopers worked with the dive team to arrange the operation that shut down access along the river for a few hours on Saturday. According to Troopers, the truck went in the river earlier this year and the owner left it abandoned.

Alyssa Millard is a Natural Resource Specialist with DNR who helped to set up the operation to remove the truck. Alaska State Troopers closed down movement through that part the river for two hours while the truck was being recovered.

Millard said removing the truck was important, “It’s a navigational hazard. We had a lot of community members really concerned about it being in the water. We wanted to make sure there wasn’t a release happening, which there wasn’t at this time. It just shouldn’t be in the water.”

Troopers initially got the report last winter that there were headlights in the river. They responded and determined that there was no one in the vehicle. Troopers turned the problem over to the DNR who called the dive team. The all-volunteer dive team is organized by Test the Waters, a local dive shop.

Mitch Osborne, one of the owners of Test the Waters and a lead diver for the dive team, headed up the planning of the dive. The team initially tried to recover the truck in early May but high water and fast current made them call off the dive.

Osborne said this dive wasn’t without it’s challenges, “The current was still an issue, and no visibility -- so once we hooked on to the truck, we actually did all the dive by feel.”

To find the truck, they used a boat to drag a rope with a hook on the bottom of the river. Once they had located the truck, a diver followed the rope on to secure a cable from the tow truck.

Boats from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation helped locate the truck and stop river traffic while the operation was underway.

Troopers have already cited the owner of the truck for leaving the vehicle abandoned in the water.

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