Silver SUV similar to missing man John Wooner’s pulled from the Kern River

Local News

Kern County search and rescue crews have removed a silver Dodge SUV from the Kern River Sunday afternoon. A man’s body was found inside.

The recovery came along Highway 178, about three miles into the canyon.

“The vehicle was fully submerged in the river but was still visible from the roadway,” said Robert Rodriguez with CHP.

The car did not have license plates, and the exact Dodge model is currently unknown. The California Highway Patrol says the county coroner will identify the man found inside at a later time.

On Saturday, a sergeant on scene reported that the vehicle has been in the water for a while and is visible now only because water levels have dropped about three feet in the last week. 

“We don’t know how long that SUV has been submerged underwater or at what time or even we’re still to determine the exact point of entry,” Rodriguez said.

Triple temperatures, rocky terrain, and the raging current prevented crews from removing the SUV Saturday but crews returned to the scene Sunday morning for extraction. 

The extraction took four hours and left many unanswered questions.

In May, McFarland city manager John Wooner went missing in his silver Dodge Durango after he was last seen visiting Hillcrest Memorial Park. His car had California license plates 1390353.

That cemetery is just 11.1 miles from where the submerged vehicle was removed.

Despite similarities between the vehicles, CHP says accidents in the Kern River canyon do happen quite frequently.

“It could be very very dangerous and very treacherous for somebody to easily go off the roadway if they’re driving or taking a curve a little too hot, Rodriguez said.

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