By Cindy Iutzi
The Mississippi riverfront in Keokuk was the focus of attention Wednesday afternoon after a federal dredging operation rooted up parts of a vehicle later identified as stolen.
Dredging near the river bank between the George M. Verity Museum and Victory Park had been underway for some time, and at least one barge had been loaded with mud, rocks and other river bottom debris.
At about 3 p.m. the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ dredge pulled up parts from a red vehicle. The police were notified and dredging halted.
“We called in the Keokuk Emergency Volunteer Corps,” said Keokuk Police Chief Dave Hinton. “Their divers located a car, but they couldn’t get anything hooked on because it was buried in sediment. The divers showed the crane operator where the car was and he was able to pull it out.”
Kevin Baker and Kevin Miller of the Keokuk Emergency Volunteer Corps did the diving.
Baker said this morning that the river water “was chilly and dark. You can’t see anything, it’s pretty much by feel.”
Keokuk Fire Department personnel were called to the scene at 3:41 p.m. and fire personnel used the department’s boat to support the divers in the water.
Police kept the public away from the scene.
The vehicle has been identified as a 2009 Chevrolet Aveo that was reported stolen Sept. 9. 2009, from 201 N. First St., Keokuk, Hinton said. The Aveo was a rental vehicle.
Hinton speculates that getting the car into the river in September 2009 would not have been as difficult as it would be today.
“It was after the Flood of 2008, the water was high and the riverfront had gone through multiple flood stages,” Hinton said.
He believes the car theft would be considered as second-degree theft based on the value of the car in 2009.
The statute of limitations for first- or second-degree theft is generally three years, according to Lee County Attorney Michael Short.
“The odds are that it’s expired,” Short said. “But in some circumstances it can be extended.”