Ford Bronco stuck for 3 days in the Atlantic Ocean near Bar Harbor

A series of pillow-lifting airbags are placed under the Bronco to lift it off the ocean floor. Faith DeAmbrose / Desert Mount Islander

BAR HARBOR – It seems every year a local tow truck company pulls a vehicle or two from the Atlantic Ocean to Bar Harbor after drivers failed to account for the daily tidal cycle on a trip to the Island of Bar.

For a driver who went from sandbar to mudflats, that mistake turned into a three-day ordeal that ended in a rescue operation and fueled days of social media chatter as people followed the saga.

On Saturday afternoon during the rising tide, Jason St. Onage, the owner of a 2021 Ford Bronco with New Jersey registration, drove onto the beach and got stuck in the mud at the edge of the water about 500 feet from the land bridge to Bar Island. Unable to move the vehicle, St. Onage got out and called the Bar Harbor Police Department.

Les Foss, owner of Island Towing, and his team arrived at the scene and tried to remove the vehicle, but were unable due to the rapidly rising tide.

Island Towing returned on Sunday to try to pull the vehicle out at every low tide, but without success. By then the vehicle had sunk deeper into the mud and the electronics had malfunctioned, leaving the tow company unable to put the car in neutral and making it almost impossible to drag.

During the second attempt on Sunday, aided by a special winch system made for their vehicles, Foss said they were able to move the Bronco about 150 feet before the ropes they were using broke under the extreme tension.

Island Towing works to move a Ford Bronco stuck in the mud in Bar Harbor at low tide on Sunday. Kip Wing/Aerial Aesthetics

That’s when the incident turned into a rescue operation.

On Monday morning, Greg Canders of Canders Diving Service in Bangor donned a wetsuit and placed a series of airbags under the Bronco. Once inflated, and at high tide, the vehicle was able to be moved across the sandbar to Bar Island. Canders then returned to the vehicle to remove the inflatables, and Foss waited until the next low tide to remove the vehicle using a flatbed truck.

The vehicle was finally removed around 5 p.m. Monday.

Foss said his company had been called in to remove “four or five” vehicles that had been submerged on the sandbar last year. The sandbar is exposed at low tide but at high tide it is fully submerged under nearly 12 feet of water.

Canders said it was not the first vehicle he had to recover from water. In fact, he was called upon to remove various objects from the water, including cars, boats and even two snowmobiles last winter.

No charges will be filed against the driver and the driver’s insurance company should cover the loss.

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