Missing car found in Shell Rock River

Diver Matt Haugan recovers the car’s license plate as fellow Iowa Underwater Search and Rescue team members Deena and Ken Biretz and DNR Conservation Officer Jordon Hansen look on. (Bethany Carson photo)
Bethany Carson

    A black 2017 Chevrolet Impala was located in the Shell Rock River above the dam in Greene on Monday, Sept. 21.

    According to Butler County Sheriff Jason Johnson, Cody Frerichs of Bristow was out fishing over the weekend, and noticed what appeared to be a car on his sonar.

    “A fisherman was out here looking for some structure, and observed what he believed to be a vehicle off of Garmin Panoptix, and sent that image to the Sheriff’s Department,” said DNR Conservation Officer Jordon Hansen. “They contacted me since I have the boat, and I came out here with side-scan sonar and tried to get images from every direction, and determined that it appeared like it was a vehicle.”

    Iowa Underwater Search and Rescue were called in to help identify the vehicle.

    “With this dive team, normally it’s different: they know exactly what they’re looking for. They just have to find it. This situation we found it; we just don’t know what we’re looking at,” Sheriff Johnson said.

    While Johnson considered finding the Impala as the most likely scenario, with Ethan Kazmerzak and his vehicle still missing from Hampton, it was important to identify the vehicle in the river before dragging it out in case a criminal investigation were necessary.

    The Impala was reported missing on July 5, 2019. According to the Sheriff’s Call for Service record, the owner said that he was in Greene the night before with family and stayed at his parents’ home. When he got up, his vehicle was missing.

    “There is a car from town from 2019 that a gentleman was drinking one night and woke up at home, and he was wet, and his car was gone, so that’s a black Chevy Impala from 2019. That would make the most sense,” Johnson said.

    The Sheriff’s Department located gouge marks that could be connected with the case, possibly showing where the vehicle went off into the river.

    The Iowa Underwater Search and Rescue team included Safety Officer Deena Biretz of Fertile and divers Ken Biretz of Fertile and Matt Haugan of Parkersburg. Diver Miranda Haugan of Parkersburg was also present to provide back-up. These volunteers use their own gear and donate their time to help with investigations and find closure for families. Haugan swam out to the car, which was located near the middle of the river about five feet down. The depth of the river at the location of the vehicle was 10-11 feet. While diving, Haugan recovered the license plate, observed the condition of the vehicle and ensured there were no victims. He and the Search and Rescue team then reported their findings to Sheriff Johnson.

    The license plate confirmed the vehicle was indeed the Impala. The insurance company was notified, and the vehicle will be dragged out of the river in the near future for salvage.


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