South Georgia fisherman sinks SUV

Rusty Whiting wades into the water as a tow truck pulls John Brown’s SUV out of the MacKay River. Brown and a friend had gone fishing and were attaching their boat to its trailer when Brown accidentally rolled his wife’s GMC Yukon into the river.

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - John Brown had a whale of a tale to tell his family, friends and insurance agent this week.

A bad day of fishing Tuesday got even worse for Brown when he and friend Deris Kent came into the public boat ramp at the MacKay River Bridge near St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast.

Disaster struck, the Wayne County fishermen said, as Brown backed his wife's 2004 GMC Yukon sport utility vehicle down the ramp about 1:30 p.m. so Kent could ease their boat onto the attached trailer. The trouble started when Kent called out to him.

Although Brown, 34, had lowered the SUV's windows he could not make out what Kent said. 

"I opened the door and leaned out a little way so I could hear better. I had one foot outside and one inside on the brake pedal. That's when my foot slipped," Brown said.

The SUV shot backward with Brown half in and half out of the cab.

"It just tore out and knocked him down," Kent said.

As it picked up speed, Brown struggled to regain control of the vehicle and his balance by hopping on his outside foot in an effort to pull himself inside.

"I kind of hopped on one foot, but you can't hop too well in water," he said "I fell out. I'm lucky I didn't get run over."

The SUV and trailer hit the water and kept on going.

"It floated for a little bit," said Brown, who estimated it was about 55 feet out from the boat ramp when it sank in about 20 feet of water.

"It kept running for a little while after it went under," Brown said.

For awhile, it was visible beneath the surface, but the incoming tide made the water too murky to see from the nearby dock, they said.

A diver, Rusty Whiting, swam out to the SUV and attached a tow cable to it, but a chain broke as the first tow truck tried to pull it out. Divers said the vehicle was lodged against a big chunk of underwater concrete.

Tuesday evening, Glynn County police were awaiting the arrival of a heavy-duty tow truck with heavier cable to arrive, said Capt. Jay Wiggins, director of Glynn County's Emergency Management Agency.

"Once the heavy-duty wrecker gets here, we'll have it out within 20 minutes," Wiggins said.

No oil or fuel could be seen on the surface of the water where it went down.

The SUV, however, proved easier to hook than the fish.

"We didn't catch a thing, and the waves were so bad that our boat anchor would not hold," Brown said.

Having been submerged in saltwater, the SUV is total loss, said Brown, who is an auto mechanic.

teresa.stepzinski@jacksonville.com, (912) 264-0405

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