ROGUE RIVER — A car that has been rusting at the bottom of the Rogue River at Valley of the Rogue State Park for the past 19 months was pulled out Tuesday morning by a helicopter.
A Sikorsky SH-3H heavy-lift helicopter, owned by the Croman Corp. of White City, pulled the 2010 Subaru out of the water with a 400-foot cable and dropped it in a nearby field for a tow truck to cart away. The recovery, which took place near the park's D and E loops, took about 10 minutes.
"It was a great lift. It was a safe lift," said Mark White, co-owner of Waterway Recovery, which coordinated the lift. Jackson County Commissioner John Rachor co-owns the company.
The vehicle first ended up in the river on March 7, 2011, when Kate McKay Boone, then 36, drove into the water at Valley of the Rogue park during a suicide attempt but swam to safety when the car began to sink. Boone was arrested and convicted of second-degree disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and fined $135.
Boone's insurance company, Progressive, was responsible for removing the car from the water, but high spring flows initially, difficulty in locating the submerged vehicle and concerns about damaging the bank when towing the car ashore had delayed the recovery.
Progressive had been in negotiations with the state about how to remove the car safely. The state expressed concerns about a tow operation, citing potential damage to the 10- to 20-foot riverbanks.
"We went through all of our options, whether it be a tow truck or getting it out the way it did," said Jeff Sibel, Progressive spokesman. "We came to the conclusion that the only safe way was to use a helicopter."
The aircraft had been used for fighting wildfires in California until recently.
"This was our window of opportunity," Rachor said.
It was a delicate procedure. The car was submerged in the river's south side near several houses, with power lines nearby.
"We had a lot of issues that we had to take into consideration," Rachor said.
The helicopter landed nearby and had a 200-foot length of cable attached. Then it took off again and hovered over the river on the north side to avoid blowing debris into the nearby homes. Officials waited below in a boat with another 200-foot length of cord. They attached one end to the dangling cable, the other end to the car. The vehicle, listed at 3,400 pounds, registered at nearly 9,000 pounds because of the added weight from water.
"The big issue (the pilot) has to watch for is weight," Rachor said.
Brian Beattie, Croman Corp. operations director, said this type of recovery is not common. The company's helicopters work all over the state and typically do lifts at logging operations and on fires.
"It went very smoothly," Beattie said.
Rachor estimated the job will cost between $11,000 and $15,000.
Department of Environmental Quality Rogue Basin specialists said it won't be necessary to test the waters because any toxins would have long washed away.
A nearby section of the Bear Creek Greenway and the Valley of the Rogue hiking trail were closed for a half-hour during the recovery.
"Our goal was just to keep people out of the area," said park Ranger Paul Stulz.
Jackson County Sheriff's Department deputies also were on-site but were not part of the operation.
"The car now belongs to the insurance company," said sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Carlson. "We're just here to see it all the way through."
Nearby campers saw the action while they sat by their morning campfire.
"The entertainment they provide here at the park is amazing," joked Ocean Shores, Wash., resident Jan Ross.
Ross joined several of her friends to watch.
"It was so loud you can't ignore it," said Damascus resident Ed Shay.