© STEVE WADDEN/CAPE BRETON POST
An underwater recovery team consisting of members of the RCMP and Cape Breton Regional Police comb the channel at the Englishtown ferry using a side scan sonar last week
ENGLISHTOWN – An RCMP underwater recovery team has confirmed it has found the vehicle that plunged off the Englishtown ferry Torquil MacLean eight days ago and the remains of one person inside it.
The dive team is not going to risk trying to retrieve the body form the car. The plan is to attempt to attach to it a line from a local fishing boat that has been chartered by the RCMP and then drag it as close to the shore as possible on the Jersey Cove side. They will then run a line from a tow truck to the vehicle.
The RCMP is concerned that due to the strong currents in the area that retrieving the body from the vehicle would pose too great a risk. They are not confirming whether the body is male or female. They believe it will take several hours to organize the tow but it will happen today.
Baddeck RCMP Staff Sgt. Craig Yorke said earlier today that a “large object” had been picked up using side-scan sonar which emits cone- or fan-shaped pulses down toward the sea floor.
A marker, a buoy, had been placed on the water of St. Anns Bay, only a couple hundred metres from where the ferry crosses the channel between Englishtown and Jersey Cove.
The car was last seen about 200 metres from the ferry floating away in a strong current on the evening of March 25.
“Now they’re going to prepare to send the divers down to see what they actually found,” Yorke said Tuesday morning.
There has been much speculation of who is in the car and what caused the vehicle to drive over a raised ferry ramp into the icy channel waters of St. Anns Bay.
RCMP believe the person in the car could be 81-year-old Jerry Hengeveld of Waterville, N.S. He was last spotted at a gas station in Baddeck on March 25.
He was in the area visiting relatives, according to his daughter Linda Halliday.
Halliday said she heard reports about a car driving off the Cape Breton ferry, but it wasn’t until Friday morning when relatives called to ask if she’d seen Hengeveld that she and her husband Bill began to suspect something wasn’t right.
Hengeveld, who drives a 2007 silver-grey Toyota Camry, was last seen by his family on March 24.
Yorke said divers will first be sent down to explore what the object is before determining what to do next.
If it is Hengeveld’s car, the divers would “most likely” try to retrieve the body without moving the vehicle first, he said.
“(It’s) based on the depth of the water and what they (divers) have at their disposal to gain entry. The windows could already be broken. We don’t know that until we actually go down.”
The RCMP dive team is set up in Jersey Cove, and the road on that side of the ferry crossing has been blocked off by police.
So far today ice on St. Anns Bay hasn’t been a problem, but Yorke said with the strong currents, the ice seemed to be moving back into the bay.
CHRIS SHANNON - CAPE BRETON POST