HAVERHILL — A car stolen on Easter Sunday from a University of New Hampshire student was found floating in the Merrimack River near the Rocks Village neighborhood yesterday by a group of children taking a walk.
The black Honda Civic EX was vacant, but a police officer jumped into the river dressed in only his uniform to make sure there was no one inside.
Ron Beauregard took his daughters, Vanessa, 12, and Morgan, 9, and their friends Jesse Feeney, 9, and Samantha Jones, 8 — all of Merrimac — for a walk along the Merrimack River on River Road. Just as they were ready to turn around and head home around 1:05 p.m. near the Merrimac/Haverhill line, one of the girls spotted something floating about 10 feet away from the bank of the river.
"It's a car in the water," Jesse said she shouted.
Beauregard said he flagged down a passing driver, and the driver called 911 by cell phone.
Minutes later, Merrimac Patrolman Steve Ringuette arrived. He waded into the icy cold river without any diving gear and dressed only in his uniform.
"So he could find out if there were people in there," Morgan said.
Most of the car was underwater, but Beauregard said they could see that the driver's side window was lowered. Ringuette didn't want to take any chances that someone could be in there, Merrimac police Sgt. Eric Shears said.
Ringuette was resting comfortably at home after his daring rescue attempt, Shears said. The department was proud of the decision he made.
"He made a decision based on what he had there," Shears said.
After running the license plate, police found out the car was reported stolen from a dorm at the University of New Hampshire on March 23. When the car was pulled from the river yesterday, police found a CD player had been stolen from the inside of the car.
Shears said they don't exactly know how the car got into the river, but they suspect it was pushed in somewhere farther upstream. It got caught on some rocks yesterday near the Merrimac/Haverhill line where it was found, he said.
The car was pulled from the river by a two trucks from Edgemont Garage & Oil in Merrimac. Merrimac Police will continue to investigate to determine how the car ended up in the water.
The incident drew out many neighbors, including a man whose own car plunged into the river in October, just up the road at the Rocks Village bridge. Caleb Burke of Merrimac had fallen asleep at the wheel of his Infinity sedan when he drove into the water. He was not injured in the crash.