Car from suicide attempt stuck in Rogue River

GOLD HILL — From her deck overlooking the Rogue River, Penny Toman can see the top of a 2010 Subaru Outback about a foot below the water's surface. A bit of rust and slimy green gunk decorate the deteriorating car that has been in the river for more than a year, she said.

The car belonged to Kate McKay Boone, then 36, who attempted suicide March 7, 2011, by driving the vehicle into the river at Valley of the Rogue State Park, according to police reports. Jackson County sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Carlson said the following day that the car would be removed in the next few days when water levels fell.

But the next few days have turned into nearly a year-and-a-half, and the white Subaru Outback remains underwater.

"We're wondering why nothing has been done," said Toman, 59.

Sheriff's officials said they've had a difficult time locating the car because of high water levels and currents that moved the car downstream. Now that the Subaru is visible near the 3400 block of Rogue River Highway, discussions between Boone's insurance company, which is responsible for removing the car, and Valley of the Rogue officials have delayed the removal process.

After driving the car into the river, Boone escaped the vehicle and was arrested and lodged in the Jackson County Jail for nine days on charges of disorderly conduct, littering in a waterway, resisting arrest and attempting to assault a public safety officer, according to Carlson.

Boone was convicted on March 17, 2011, of second-degree disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, both misdemeanor charges. Boone paid a $135 fine but was not required to pay for the car's removal, according to court documents.

Lt. Pat Rowland, manager of Jackson County sheriff's Field Services Division, said officials haven't removed the car because it isn't considered a safety hazard and isn't blocking a water channel. If it moves and blocks a channel, Rowland said, officials would remove it.

"I know everybody's working on it," he said. "It's a work in progress. It'll get moved. I just don't know when."

Boone's insurance company, Progressive, contacted Valley of the Rogue several weeks ago about removing the car. Company spokesman Jeff Sibel said part of the reason it has taken Progressive so long to remove the car is because sheriff's officials couldn't locate it.

Now, Sibel said, the insurance company has been negotiating with the state for the past few weeks about where and how to remove the car. Sibel said state parks officials wouldn't allow the towing company, Caveman Towing of Grants Pass, to haul the vehicle in Valley of the Rogue. The state is concerned the car might damage the park's banks, he said.

Caveman Towing manager Bill Leonard said residents have complained that removing the car on their side of the river would damage the banks. His crew is ready to remove the car, he said, but it is waiting for the go-ahead from the insurance company.

"Seems they're at loggerheads," Leonard said. "I'm not sure what's going on."

Valley of the Rogue manager Pete Reinhardt suggested the best option for Progressive might be to remove the car using a helicopter so it doesn't damage the 10- to 20-foot banks in the area. It would take five minutes or less, he said.

"It's unfortunate where that thing is located," Reinhardt said. "It's not as if you can drive down the bank and pull it out."

Progressive needs a permit to remove the car but has yet to submit the required formal plan about how it will do it. The plan, Reinhardt said, needs to consider damage to riverside vegetation and banks, and safety issues for boaters.

"They still haven't gotten back to me," he said.

Until Progressive submits a plan, the project will be on hold.

Without knowing many details, residents such as Toman continue to wonder why the "rusting hulk," as she calls it, still is lodged in the river. Aside from the car being an eyesore for residents and boaters, Toman said she's worried the car has leaked toxins into the water.

Rogue basin specialists at the Department of Environmental Quality said they weren't aware of the car. Unless DEQ receives a complaint, officials said, the agency can't do anything about it.

"It doesn't look really healthy," Toman said. "The folks who know and have seen the car just shake their heads when I mention the fact that it is still underwater."

Share This Story