A Janesville woman’s car rolled into the Rock River late Wednesday morning after she stopped at the boat launch off Afton Road to free a turtle that had showed up at her house Tuesday.
“I was just trying to be a good Samaritan,” Missy Long said in an interview at the Rock River Parkway Trailhead, near the boat launch where her car rolled into the water.
Janesville police and fire officials responded at about 11:34 a.m. Wednesday to a report of a white 2011 Chevrolet Equinox Crossover SUV that was in the river and floating downstream, according to Long and the Rock County Communications Center.
Long said she apparently did not put the car in park, and she thinks that’s why it rolled into the river.
Long was busy tending to the turtle she intended to release into the river when she saw her car roll down the boat ramp and into the water. It then began floating downstream.
No one was in the car at the time, Long said.
By about noon, the car was mostly submerged but appeared to be marooned on the riverbed near the river’s north shore, upstream from the Bellrichard Bridge.
The rear windshield wiper was still on, and it continued swiping away river water before fire department divers shut off the car’s power.
Shortly after noon, authorities cut away trees to make room for a tow truck to winch out the car. A fire crew monitored the situation from a rescue boat.
Police Sgt. Dean Sukus said police received a pair of 911 calls that a car was in the river near the Bellrichard Bridge. When authorities reached the boat launch off Afton Road, they quickly learned from Long that nobody was in the car, Sukus said.
Kevin Mageland said he was riding across the Bellrichard Bridge on his motorcycle Wednesday morning when he saw the car floating down the river.
He told a Gazette reporter that he called 911 and then ran down the hill, removed items from his pockets and jumped into the river to see if anyone was trapped in the car.
“I waded out there, and I jumped in the car and fished around in the back seat and fished around in the front seat. And there was nothing. Nobody. I tried to shut off the windshield wipers, but they just kept on running,” Mageland said.
He said he learned a couple of minutes later that the nobody was in the car when it went in the water, and its owner was OK.
Mageland lives just up the street from the river. He said he has never seen a scene like the one Wednesday.
“It’s not every day that you drive over that bridge and see a car just floating down the river,” he said.
Long cut the Gazette interview short because she said she had to make arrangements to get a ride from the boat launch.
Authorities on scene said they weren’t sure if Long’s turtle had made a successful journey back into the wild.