NEWPORT, Ky.– Dangerous conditions in the Ohio River are going to further delay efforts to raise the car that fell off the Combs-Hehl Bridge last Tuesday.
“It’s much more challenging than anyone gives [divers] credit for,” John Hoh, an experienced diver and owner of Aquatic Dreams Diving, told WCPO.
Zero visibility and fast-moving debris such as trees and branches are hazardous to divers, Hoh said. The original goal was to get divers into the water Sunday or Monday, but that’s been pushed back to Tuesday or Wednesday – a full week or more since the car fell in.
Hoh, who has been diving for 15 years, says divers can’t see their hands in front of their face. We went out with a camera and checked.
“Think about closing your eyes, wandering through a field and trying to find a car in the middle of a field,” Hoh said.
Also, there are big objects – including trees and branches – floating quickly down the river.
“[Divers] have the potential hazard of getting hit from behind by one of these objects. Now, you get hit with a tree at 5 miles per hour, that’s going to knock you unconscious,” Hoh said. “That poses a significant hazard to divers.”
The river is anywhere from 27 to 40 feet deep under the bridge, but it’s not the depth that makes reaching that car so dangerous, said Capt. Dale Appel, director of the Boone County Water Rescue Team.
“This river is very unfriendly right now, very unforgiving. We have to have the current, the speed of the current, in a certain position before any of these divers can do their work,” Appel said Friday.
Appel said they need to wait for the current to slow to 1.5 mph for the sake of divers’ safety. The river was moving at 5 mph Thursday night, he said. Appel has been putting together a plan to get to the car since it fell off the bridge during several chain-reaction crashes involving 12 vehicles. His team has tied a rope to the car and wrapped the rope around a pier so the car doesn’t float downstream in the strong current.