SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — A person was inside a vehicle when it left the Wheatland Ferry ramp and went into the Willamette River on Wednesday evening, prompting a search that later turned into a recovery, officials said.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said the vehicle went off the ferry ramp and into the water just after 4 p.m. at 1150 Matheny Road just north of Keizer.
Sgt. Jeremy Landers said the driver passed a line of cars waiting for the ferry and plunged into the water. Witnesses said the driver was a woman.
Austin Robertiello told KOIN 6 News he was out for a walk when he heard the vehicle go into the water and people yelling. He said he saw the vehicle eventually slip beneath the surface.
LifeFlight responded to assist and Keizer police officers used a drone to scan the area. Landers said four boat crews were in the water. But all of their efforts were unsuccessful and the search was suspended at dusk. Landers said crews would resume the search in the morning around 9 a.m.
“I lived here my whole life and never heard of anything like this,” said Salem resident Richard Housen. “I think they should still be out there searching for her, personally.”
“I just thought, how tragic. That’s somebody’s mom, how sad,” said Denise Housen. “I mean, she’s just out there and it’s super sad for her family. Hopefully, they can come out and do the search and locate her.”
The Willamette River Boat Launch on Matheny Road will remain closed for the extent of the recovery but the Wheatland Ferry is expected to continue running normally.
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.