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.
The Winona County Sheriff’s Department estimates the truck sat at the bottom of the lake for the past three decades.
According to Chief Deputy Jeff Mueller, a fisher picked up the sunken truck on a fish finder sonar while fishing about 100 yards from shore.
Winona County rescue divers confirmed the location of the sunken vehicle about 17 feet below the surface a few days later.
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.
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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 of how good a condition it was in,” he said. “I thought it would have been roughed up after 30 years.”
Exactly how the vehicle ended up at the bottom of the lake and who it belonged to remains under investigation.
The vehicle’s location has led some to speculate that the vehicle may have fallen through the ice.
Mueller said the truck had a Wisconsin plate from 1990, however, the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles was unable to connect the plate to the owner.
Law enforcement has been able to recover the vehicle’s VIN number and are attempting to use the unique vehicle identifier to find the original owner of the vehicle.
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.