Duxbury, VT — Police said that a pickup truck pulled from the Winooski River on Thursday did not contain the remains of its owner, a man who has not been seen since October 2006.
Investigators said there were, however, some personal effects retrieved that belonged to Donald Messier, who disappeared 16 years ago after driving away from a party in Waitsfield.
A Vermont State Police dive team led Thursday’s effort to retrieve the truck, a day after the independent search firm Adventures With Purpose found it buried 10 feet underwater in rocks, silt and sand.
Teams of three divers started at around 9 a.m. clearing the built-up debris. Divers brought large bags down to collect items and possible evidence found in the truck. A tow-truck backed up to the water around 3 p.m. to bring the vehicle to the surface before it was taken from the scene on a flat-bed truck sgortly after 6 p.m.
Police said the operation wrapped up around 9 p.m., and while “no obvious human remains” were found, investigators will continue to examine the vehicle for clues Friday.
Adventures With Purpose started working on the Messier missing-persons case last year. The company didn’t find anything in initial searches, but new information from Waterbury residents brought them back to thevriver this year.
“The Winooski River here follows River Road, which would have been a potential route from the party that night that Donnie went missing,” said Nick Rinn, Team Leader for Adventures With Purpose. “So about a mile upstream from here, we put in one of our boats. As we were moving along the river we were looking for any deep holes next to the road that in an accident scenario could eventually drive off the road and into the water. And when I basically got to the first hole that was deep enough to conceal a vehicle, that’s where I spotted the vehicle.”
Vermont State Police said that October 4, 2006, one day before he was last seen, Messier went to a friend’s house to watch a NASCAR race before making his way to a party in the town of Waitsfield.
At around 2 a.m., Messier was last seen driving away from the party in his distinctive red Ford F150, decorated with NASCAR numbers. Police reports from the time indicated Messier wasn’t intoxicated.
Rinn said they plan to be there Thursday when a police dive team begins working to pull the truck from the river.
“They are going to utilize some of our equipment and we’ll assist any way we can,” he said.
Rinn’s divers couldnt see whether there were any remains in the vehicle because of debris accumulated over the years. He said it’s still not clear where truck entered the river.
“If there are remains in there, great, but if not we’ll keep on searching,” said Captain Matt Daley of the Vermont State Police. “It’s another place for us to investigate and help us bring some closure to the family.”
A member of Messier’s family said they heard about the situation last night and were unaware of the independent search. They said they are distraught by the news but hopeful it might lead to closure after 16 years of not knowing.
The recovery dive is expected to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.