Star file photo Niles police have identified a vehicle found in the St. Joseph River as one that was reported stolen in 2002.

Archived Story

Car found in river stolen

Published 4:08pm Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A vehicle that has been playing hide and seek with authorities for almost 10 years has finally been found.

A 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora was reported stolen on Feb. 26, 2002, from in front of the old Ready 4 Theater in downtown Niles.

On Nov. 21, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team extracted a 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora from the bottom of the St. Joseph River. After checking the vehicle identification number, Niles police identified the vehicle as the one reported stolen on Feb. 26, 2002.

Lt. Don Goulooze, a member of the dive team that extracted the vehicle, said the Aurora was located in about 16 feet of water near the French Paper Co. dam.

The keys were still in the ignition and the car was in drive. He said the vehicle was likely deliberately driven off a nearby boat ramp and into the water.

Goulooze said he and the dive team have pulled at least seven vehicles out of the river over the past 25 years, including three at one time.

The dive team located the vehicle during a recent training session. They were testing out new sonar equipment, which helped them spot the vehicle under water.

Goulooze said the insurance company that paid out $8,200 on the vehicle back then would be reopening the case. The Niles Police Department is investigating.

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