On a cold and snowy evening in late December 1989, Kimberly Postl, then a saleswoman at Ehler’s Clothing on Third Street in Winona, left work to discover her 1985 Ford F-150 had been stolen.
Postl remembers the night well. A few minutes before the store closed, she ran out to start the truck so it could warm up before her drive home to Waumandee, Wis. Little did she know it would be the last time she’d see the truck until three decades later.
Last week Postl’s truck was pulled from east Lake Winona where Winona County Sheriff’s deputies believe it sat submerged 100 yards from shore and under 17 feet of water for nearly 30 years.
A small crowd gathered along the banks of east Lake Winona on Sunday morning as Borkowski Towing and Salvage pulled a mid-1980s Ford F-150 from the depths to the shore.
Postl positively identified the vehicle Friday after the department received a tip from her neighbor.
According to Chief Deputy Jeff Mueller, the truck was discovered when a fisherman picked up something unusual on sonar earlier this month.
Winona County rescue divers confirmed the location of the submerged vehicle a few days later.
The discovery of the vehicle came as a surprise to Postl, who had long given up hope of ever getting her Ford back.
“I went for two weeks and asked about it. I was concerned and wanted it back,” she said recalling the weeks that followed the theft. “I didn’t have any hope after those two weeks. I kind of forget about it until Dec. 23 of every year.”
The Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department is trying to locate the owner of a vehicle that was pulled from the Mississippi River on Sunday.
While investigators know the thief likely smashed the truck’s window to gain access to the locked and running vehicle, how it ended up at the bottom of the lake and how long it spent there before it was discovered remain unclear.
On Sunday, June 2, Borkowski Towing and Salvage, with the assistance of the dive team, pulled the truck from the water.
According to Jared Biggerstaff of Borkowski Towing and Salvage, while recovering swamped vehicles isn’t uncommon, finding one that has been under for 30 years is a little unusual.
“Normally they aren’t down there for that long,” he said.
Removing a vehicle of this size requires a combination of specialized equipment and personnel.
To pull the vehicle from the depths, Borkowski Towing utilized a 30,000-pound winch mounted to a skid loader.
Biggerstaff said this setup allowed recovery crews to get right up to the shoreline.
While Borkowski Towing supplied the heavy equipment, Biggerstaff said it was the Winona County Dive and Rescue Team that ran the winch line out to the vehicle.
“They have to do all the rigging,” he said. “We applaud them.”
Biggerstaff said he was shocked by the condition of the vehicle. Even after 30 years beneath Lake Winona’s waters, the vehicle, dirty as it was, didn’t have a spot of rust on it.
“I was in shock at how good a condition it was in,” he said. “I thought it would have been roughed up after 30 years.”
The vehicle’s location has led some to speculate that the vehicle may have fallen through the ice.
The discovery of the truck comes just less than a year after the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department pulled a sunken 1980s Chevrolet Suburban from the Mississippi River.
The Suburban was discovered last July after multiple agencies received reports of a large object located about 50 yards off the shore in the area of Ninth Street in Buffalo City.