BAR HARBOR — It seems like every year a local tow truck company pulls a vehicle or two from the Atlantic Ocean in Bar Harbor after drivers fail to heed the daily tide cycle on a drive out to Bar Island. For one driver who veered from the sandbar and into the mudflats, that mistake turned into a three-day ordeal that ended as a salvage operation and fueled days of social media chatter as people followed the saga.
On Saturday afternoon during the incoming tide, Jason St. Onage, the owner of a 2021 Ford Bronco registered in New Jersey, drove onto the beach and became stuck in the mud at the water’s edge about 500 feet from the land bridge to Bar Island. Unable to move the vehicle, St. Onage got out and called the Bar Harbor Police Department. Les Foss, owner of Island Towing, and his team arrived on the scene and tried to remove the vehicle, but they were unable to because of the fast-rising tide.
Island Towing returned on Sunday to try to remove the vehicle during each low tide but was unsuccessful. By then the vehicle had sunk farther into the mud and the electronics had malfunctioned, leaving the tow truck company unable to put the car into neutral and making it nearly impossible to drag out. During the second attempt on Sunday, aided by a special winch system fabricated for their vehicles, Foss said they were able to move the Bronco about 150 feet before the ropes they were using snapped under the extreme tension.
That is when the incident turned into a salvage operation. On Monday morning, Greg Canders of Canders Diving Service in Bangor donned a wetsuit and placed a series of inflatable pillow lift bags under the Bronco. Once inflated, and at high tide, the vehicle was able to be moved to the sandbar to Bar Island. Canders then dove back out to the vehicle to remove the inflatables and Foss waited for the next low tide to remove the vehicle using a flatbed truck.
The vehicle was finally removed around 5 p.m. on Monday.
Foss said his company was called to remove “four or five” vehicles that were submerged on the sandbar last year. The sandbar is exposed at low tide but at high tide it is fully submerged under nearly 12 feet of water.
Canders said it was not the first vehicle he has had to recover from the water. In fact, he has been called upon to remove a variety of items from the water including cars, boats and even two snowmobiles just this past winter.
No charges will be filed against the driver, and the driver’s insurance company is expected to cover the loss.