How much confidence is given when police search for a submerged vehicle and find a second one? Where did this second vehicle come from? Was there an unreported drowning?

Photo uploaded on the OPP Twitter account showing the SUV that was located in Peterborough’s Otonabee River.

The OPP reported on Thursday, December 12, 2019 that they attended the Otonabee River on Monaghan Road and Crawford Drive in Peterborough, Ontario due to reports that a vehicle had entered the river. An SUV was found in the water and a man was “rescued” though the meaning of that phrase was not made clear. What appeared surprising is that police found a second vehicle in the water at that location.

OPP photo of a second vehicle found in the Otonabee River.

This finding a second, black car is a little strange. The photo shows that it is located very close to the edge of the river bank. Presumably the vehicle did not leave the roadway at same time as the SUV but that information was never provided. Traffic and pedestrians on Monaghan Road and Crawford Drive should be have been quite close to this location so it seems strange that the vehicle was not located if it was there close to the river bank for an extended time.

But we also do not know if this photo portrays the actual facts. It is not  the first time that police would have pulled the vehicle partially out of the water before a photo was taken. The confusion that is generated when no explanation is given is often of little concern because the public does not have the right to know. Its a privilege, it seems.

Once the black car was pulled out of the water a reporter from the Peterborough examiner, Clifford Skarstedt, was able to take several photos, close-up. Unfortunately these photos cannot be shown on this website.

It is interesting to note how police do not seem concerned about the photographer being present, and photos  being taken. Yet, at other similar sites the public and reporters are kept away, sometimes several kilometres away, from the subject vehicle. So what was the harm in the reporter’s presence. Was there some dire threat that critical evidence would be damaged or stolen by the reporter?

If Mr. Skarstedt had been a reporter with the Aylmer Express Newspaper he would have been thrown in jail. A similar incident on June 24, 2017, occurred on the shore of Lake Erie when newspaper reporters John and Brett Hueston were arrested by the OPP as they refused to leave the site where a similar vehicle was being pulled out of the water.

John Hueston and his son Brett, were arrested by the OPP at a June 24, 2017 accident site, similar to the one in Peterborough.

The Lake Erie incident was slightly different as there was skepticism as to how the driver came to his death since police were “following” but reportedly not chasing him. His plunge into Lake Erie was officially claimed to be a suicide yet a checkerboard warning sign, that would normally be required at the end of a roadway, was non-existent and a warning of the cliff at the edge of the lake was not provided. So there was some sensitivity to the issue and the OPP were not independent observers to the circumstances.

With respect to the Otonabee River site, there is also no lack of controversy. The fact that a second vehicle was found at that location may not be just coincidence but a matter that the City of Peterborough should have prioritized as a potential safety hazard. The Googlemaps view of the site, shown below, indicates the approximate location where the two vehicles were found (orange circle). This is precisely at the end of Crawford Drive.

The next three Googlemaps views show the approach along Crawford Drive toward the T-intersection at Monaghan Road and the edge of the Otonabee River just beyond. Imagine travelling at night, with headlights on, and consider what visibility would be provided of the stop sign and the presence of the river.

By passing through the right curve the headlights of a vehicle would not project toward the stop sign. The only illumination of significance could be the overhead lighting and its ability to light up the face of the stop sign could be in doubt. But furthermore, if a driver were to miss seeing the stop sign and travels at full speed toward the river there is nothing in the way of a barrier or even a checkerboard sign that would either prevent a vehicle from entering the water or warn the driver of the end of the road. This is not much different than the site on Lake Erie shown in the Googlemaps views below.

At the Lake Erie site we see that Springfield Road ends in a gravel roundabout which is located about 75 metres from the edge of a cliff to the Lake. The last photo shows the driver’s view upon approaching the gravel roundabout and it can be seen that there is no Checkboard sign which would warn drivers of the termination of the road and the presence of the cliff just beyond.

These are the kinds of facts that the public ought to be made aware of. At neither site have police ever made the public aware that there are dangers that could lead future drivers to their deaths.