HARDIN COUNTY, Tenn. — Authorities are investigating a missing persons case in Hardin County.

Body of missing person found

According to Hardin County Fire Department Chief, Melvin Martin, they received a call around 10 a.m. about a vehicle in the Tennessee River near the boat ramp in Saltillo.

Chief Martin told us the initial report indicated that men fishing near the boat ramp saw a Hispanic man that had wet clothes and couldn’t speak English.

Because of a language barrier there was a delay calling 911.

“Eventually about two hours later he was able to make contact with somebody and call 911 and report his vehicle had went in the water,” said Hardin County Fire Chief Melvin Martin.

The man was one of two occupants of the submerged vehicle. Chief Martin says search efforts immediately began looking for the other occupant and the vehicle itself.

He told us they deployed a diver to locate the underwater vehicle and search for occupants, then they hooked a chain to it and used a tow truck to pull it from the water.

Chief Martin says the vehicle was located around 50-feet down the river from the boat ramp, and at a depth of about 25 to 30-feet below the surface. However, while the vehicle was now on dry land, search efforts continued for the missing passenger.

“There was no occupant in the vehicle so we still have one missing person,” said Chief Martin.

Chief Martin says with how much time has passed, they are now considering this a body recovery mission. He has requested the assistance of the TVA to slow the water speed down for them so they can come back Friday morning with more resources to aid their search efforts.

“We will have sonar and the TWRA is bringing their remotely operated underwater vehicle,” said Chief Martin.

So, how did the incident happen? Main Street in Saltillo ends at a four way stop. If you go straight you are now on the boat ramp; to the right is the parking lot and to the left is the continuation of the road.

It’s believed that the driver of the vehicle thought the road continued straight unknowingly driving down the boat ramp and into the water.

There are two signs warning drivers that the Tennessee River is ahead just before drivers get to the four way stop. However, in this scenario, the driver was Hispanic and Chief Martin believes he may not have been able to read the signs.

A similar occurrence happened in February of this year, when a man drove off the same boat ramp and died. After his death, the TWRA put up the warning signs in addition to signage warning of the Tennessee River being ahead that was already there.

“So apparently the person was not familiar with the road. Which is the case nearly every time. Cause this is multiple times this has happened and no one has corrected it yet,” said Chief Martin.

We have reached out to the TWRA and the City of Saltillo to see if they were going to take further measures to ensure the safety of the public but we have not yet heard a response.

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