Diver discovers vehicle in river; body inside

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — A recreational diver discovered a vehicle submerged in the Detroit River Thursday afternoon and police found in the back seat the remains they believe to be of a Lincoln Park man missing since 2003.

The vehicle was discovered close to the Wyandotte Boat Club, 1 Pine St., and Fire Chief Jeffrey Carley said the vehicle most likely went into the river about 100 yards from where it was found. The Downriver Underwater Search and Rescue Team began their search around 1 p.m. and had the vehicle out near BASF Waterfront Park about 4 p.m.

The body was badly decomposed — the head and feet were not attached but later located in and near the vehicle — however, most of the man’s clothing was intact and was similar to the missing person description of Thomas Lange of Lincoln Park who was reported missing Dec. 30, 2003. Lange was 30 at the time of his disappearance.

Divers found Lange’s identification in the area of the vehicle, a 1999 Mercury Sable registered to Lange. The vehicle registration expired in 2004.

Police believe the man to be Lange because the body size fits his description, but cannot confirm until a full examination of dental records and DNA is completed.

The remains were sent to the Wayne County Medical Examiner, where an autopsy was scheduled to begin Friday to identify the body and cause of death.

Police said they do not know how the vehicle got into the river.

Police believe the vehicle may have been submerged since 2004. Due to the decomposition, Carley said, the body had been submerged for an extended period of time but couldn’t give an exact amount of time.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)