Burlington, VT – An SUV that accidentally rolled into the Winooski River on Wednesday has been successfully retrieved and is now out of the water. Fortunately, no injuries were reported in the incident, which created quite a scene.
The incident occurred on Wednesday morning when a car parked in the Pingala Cafe parking lot rolled off and ended up in the Winooski River. The vehicle then floated downstream for approximately 100 yards before coming to rest near the bridge.
After nearly six hours of being submerged, the SUV was finally lifted onto the Winooksi Street Bridge, marking the end of a challenging operation. Nearby residents and onlookers expressed their amazement at the successful retrieval.
Michael Weiss, a resident in the area, commented, “Definitely a spectacle to see, and I was curious to see how it would happen. I’m super impressed to see them do it safely.” Mike Wickenden of Red Cap Marine Service, who provided shore support, added, “It’s great to be done. It’s a relief, it’s a beautiful day, and the current’s not bad.”
Although the driver of the SUV spoke to our reporter, they preferred not to appear on camera. They revealed that they had forgotten to put the car in park, only realizing their mistake when it was too late. Helplessly, they watched their Honda CRV roll into the river, surpassing the parking bumpers that failed to stop it. Fortunately, no one was inside the vehicle at the time, and only the top of the roof remained visible after the SUV floated in the river.
Divers, including Mike Hendrickson from Burlington Harbor Launch and Tow, were summoned to the scene to assist with the retrieval. Hendrickson emphasized the priority of safety during such operations, saying, “When you do this kind of thing, the first thing we’re thinking is safety.” He described the measures taken, including having a shore support person with taglines and lines attached to the vehicles, as well as Burlington Fire’s presence to ensure water safety.
The incident drew a crowd from the community, eager to witness the rare sight of a submerged car. Sydney Blume, a nearby resident, recounted, “We saw a group of people looking to the river, and we were like, ‘What’s going on?’ Long and behold, there was a car in the river.” Another resident, Heather Machia, admitted, “Never, first time… I just wanted to see it in person.” The occurrence also sparked discussion among locals who frequent the Pingala parking lot, some of whom expressed concern about the lack of guardrails on the parking spots alongside the river.
Michael Weiss remarked, “It really is weird that there’s a parking spot by the water.” Sydney Blume shared a similar sentiment, stating, “That parking lot has always sketched me out because it’s a very steep incline, and it’s right there next to the river.” Restaurant owners in the area declined to comment on camera but acknowledged receiving customer concerns regarding the absence of guardrails along the river. One of the owners even admitted to avoiding parking in that particular area in the past.
The Agency of Natural Resources was promptly notified about the incident, although no environmental hazards were reported as a result.
In the aftermath of this unusual occurrence, it serves as a reminder of the importance of taking necessary precautions to prevent accidents like this from happening again along the Winooski River.