Pickup found submerged in White Oak Bayou following heavy rain; driver, passenger missing

Search to continue for missing driver, passenger
September 21, 2013 9:18:16 PM PDT
A recovery effort will resume Sunday at White Oak Bayou in northwest Harris County where a crashed pickup was found submerged with no one inside.

Harris County Sheriff's Office investigators are not sure if the driver and his passenger were still in the vehicle when it went into the water, or if the occupants managed to escape before the accident, but dive teams were out searching for them Saturday.

The accident happened in the 7100 Fairbanks North Houston Road near Emmott Road.

According to HCSO, an 18-year-old driver and his female passenger were in a 2000 Mazda B2500 pickup. They were northbound on Fairbanks North Houston when the man reportedly lost control and hit the center median. The small truck veered off the road, slammed into the guardrail and plummeted into the White Oak Bayou.

Officials said it rolled onto its left side and top, and then it slid down a sloped concrete surface, coming to rest upside-down in the bayou.

When investigators arrived, the truck was flipped, the windows were broken and no one was inside.

A witness said he saw two people in the flipped truck around 3am, but he told us he was unable to assist them.

"By the time that I got here, man, you know the truck was already upside-down on the side of there," witness Aaron Sandlin said. "I just pulled my truck up with a wench, tried to hook it up to the rear axle. I got us out of the water and tried my hardest to help them out, man. But I just couldn't do it."

Investigators said they traced the vehicle to the 18-year-old man and contacted relatives. According to officials, the families of the driver and the passenger haven't heard from them, so deputies have to assume they may be in the water somewhere.

"This is really bad. He's my friend. He lives here. He has a son" the man's neighbor, Tomas Gonzalez, said. "He's pretty young."

HCSO authorities said a dive team search was called off after the crash scene was discovered because conditions were too dangerous.

"The current was so strong earlier this morning that we had to cancel the dive team to come out and search for the bodies," Sgt. Doug Hudson with HCSO Marine Division said. "The current is so strong we can't launch any boats in here because it's hard to maneuver. It's too dangerous."

Crews began their search and recovery operation Saturday afternoon, focusing on the bayou banks. Officials launched boats miles downstream from the wreck, following the current.

"Trying to follow the current and trying to catch places where, if there were any bodies, they would catch on a bank," Hudson said.

But authorities told us it's difficult to recover anything out here because the current is extremely strong and the ground is almost like quicksand in some places.

"We don't know where they're at," Hudson said.

Water levels remained high and the current was still unpredictable late Saturday. The search was suspended around 5pm and set to resume Sunday morning.

The crash remains under investigation, and we'll keep you updated as new details come into the newsroom. Anyone with information about the driver or passenger should call 911.

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