MESA -- Just days after buying a search-and-rescue robot to help in drowning cases, Franklin County sheriff's deputies put the remote-controlled device to work on a call for a submerged vehicle.
The robot, called SARbot, quickly revealed Friday that no one was inside the Cadillac Escalade, which was found upside down in 20 feet of water near Mesa, according to a sheriff's office news release.
But deputies at the scene were able to connect the vehicle to a September 2010 theft report out of Connell, while also locating two other vehicles in what is known as Cox Pond.
The Escalade was removed Saturday with the help of Columbia Basin Dive Rescue and three trucks from A&E Towing. The other vehicles have not been identified and apparently were left in the pond for now, but deputies said "it was confirmed that they did not appear to be occupied."
The sheriff's office got a call Friday about a completely submerged vehicle in north Franklin County, northeast of Mesa. Deputies who responded to the scene that day took the new robot, which can be set up and put in the water quickly in an attempt to rescue a drowning victim.
Four deputies reportedly began training with SARbot on Feb. 13.
At the scene, deputies worked with the person who reported the vehicle to get the equipment down a steep embankment and into the water to see if anyone was inside the Cadillac. The whole process from arrival to confirmation took less than 20 minutes, the sheriff's office reported.
The deputy operating the robot then moved it to read the license plate, and that is when they learned the numbers matched a reported stolen vehicle.
Since it wasn't urgent to have the vehicle removed, deputies scheduled a recovery effort for Saturday with Dive Rescue. It was while maneuvering the robot Saturday so it would be easier for Dive Rescue to locate the Cadillac that a deputy saw two other vehicles in about 42 feet of water, the news release said.
Divers used airbags secured to the Cadillac to lift it off the bottom of the pond, which allowed them to then drag the vehicle to a less steep embankment for recovery, the sheriff's office said. Deputies said three tow trucks were needed because of the steep angles and complicated terrain around the pond.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org