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Divers called out to help pull car from river at Kilowatt Park

  • A subcompact SUV is pulled from the Connecticut River in Wilder on Sunday afternoon after its driver went down a ramp because of a mishap involving a water bottle.

  • Divers with the Hanover Fire Department prepare to approach a submerged vehicle in the Connecticut River near the Wilder Dam on Sunday.

  • Members of the Hanover and Hartford fire departments watch as a vehicle is pulled from the Connecticut Riveron Sunday near Kilowatt Park in Wilder

  • A Hanover Fire Department diver retrieves a stuffed toy while working to pull an SUV out of the Connecticut River.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2021 9:53:46 PM
Modified: 5/10/2021 9:53:45 PM

WILDER — A woman who had been fishing with her son at Kilowatt Park near the Wilder Dam escaped from an open window of her subcompact SUV after she accidentally drove the vehicle into the Connecticut River on Sunday afternoon.

The woman was able to get out of the SUV before it sank below the surface and no injuries were reported in the incident, which was called in around 2:15 p.m. Sunday at the Kilowatt Park boat ramp off of Passumpsic Avenue in Wilder, according to Hartford Deputy Fire Chief Jason Czora.

He said the incident started that afternoon when the woman, whose name was not immediately available, was fishing with her son on the banks of the Connecticut River with her SUV parked on the boat ramp at the park. She went to move her vehicle and as she put it into drive, a water bottle fell from the middle of the SUV onto the gas pedal, propelling the vehicle into the river with the woman inside, Czora said.

The windows of the SUV were open and the woman was able to climb out and get back to the shore, but the car floated around 100 feet from the bank where it sank into the water, accord ing to firefighters. Photos from witnesses and firefighters at the scene show that the vehice was a silver Kia Soul.

Hartford firefighters responded to the scene and called for additional hel p from the Hanover Fire Department dive team, Czora said.

Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Mike Gilbert, who led the dive team, said the vehicle floated downriver and started to sink, drawing a crowd of around 50 onlookers when his team arrived. He sent three divers into the water with straps, which were connected to a towing truck from Sabil and Sons Inc. in Hartford. The divers wove the straps through the tires of the submerged SUV and the towing company pulled the totaled vehicle from the water, he said.

Gilbert said they knew no one was inside the SUV and that it had been heavily damaged, but divers had to recover the vehicle so that the gas, oil and other car fluids didn’t pose an environmental risk to the river.

White River Junction resident Nancy Maynard, who walks by the park nearly every day said she’s never seen commotion like this at the river.

She took some photos of the car, and of the driver, who sat on the bank, wrapped in a pink towel, watching the dive operation.

“When I got there, the car was 30 feet out and all you could see was the roof,” Maynard said Monday.

The driver could not be reached for comment.

A message to Hartford Interim Police Chief Braedon Vail inquiring about the driver’s name and whether she would be cited in the incident was not returned Monday.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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