Boat Ramp – 1, Truck – 0

On a recent trip to Brookville Reservoir I happened upon an emergency rescue in progress. After a successful morning of catching trout on the fly below the dam, it became quite apparent that when the sun rose above the surrounding ridges and peered directly into the stream in front of me, the trout were done feeding.

From sunrise until that point, around 9 a.m. on this particular July morning, it was pure magic. I had netted five nice browns and called it a successful day. The only problem was that it was still quite early and I had the whole day to set aside. It had been quite some time since I had visited the other state properties on the lake so I decided to take the trusty old Jeep for a cruise to visit the various state properties.

Mounds State Recreation Area and Whitewater State Park were pretty much as I remembered them and I got out and piddled with trying to bank fish a couple times with little success. Shortly after I happened upon the gate at Quakertown SRA things got a little more interesting.

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As I approached the boat ramp near the marina there was a sudden flurry of activity and soon the sound of approaching emergency vehicles. My first thoughts were “I hope everyone is alright,” especially when the dive team arrived and starting assembling their gear. By this time a small group of onlookers had assembled at the boat ramp and everyone was curious what the commotion was all about.

Conservation officers and the local sheriff’s department were soon on hand as well. The strange thing was that none of these emergency responders were acting with the sense of urgency expected with lives at stake. There were many boats and vehicles coming and going as usual on the ramp, except for this one small aluminum v-bottom that seemed to be parked along the south edge of the ramp. The owner didn’t seem to be too terribly upset but the emergency personnel were speaking almost exclusively to him.

Hmmm, what could be the matter? Did he drop his keys in the water? Was he unable to retrieve his truck om order to trailer his boat without them?

Well, the answer to both questions is yes. His keys were, indeed, in the water. The only problem was that his truck, and trailer, were still attached to said keys. This explains why the dive team was not moving with the expected urgency as in the case of a missing person. There was no sign of the missing truck anywhere. If it was out there, it was quite a distance.

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The divers walked down the ramp into the water.  They attached a lead line to the vehicle and soon enough a tow truck arrived to retrieve the whole rig. Following a few minutes of tugging with the winch, the soggy Mazda truck was exposed from the depths- bed still full of water and the cab full to the window sills. At least in the end no one was hurt and the situation was resolved rather quickly.

The ill-fated truck

Indiana Conservation Officers Wooley and Shoults were the on the scene quickly and supervised the extraction of the rig from the lake. After speaking with them, and other personnel on hand it was learned that the driver’s brakes had failed and when the pedal went to the floor the driver bailed out (no pun intended) just in time.

When asked if they had anything to say in regards to the situation of the day the officers on hand just wanted to let everyone know that this is perfect example of why you should always have a contingency plan for when things go awry. In this case one could not foresee a mechanical failure but quick and clear thinking on behalf of the driver saved this from becoming a rescue/recovery.

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Whether from mechanical failure, inexperience, inattentiveness, or just plain carelessness these things happen. And, after speaking with the officers, I learned it happens far more often the most folks realize as this was not the first time this season, and likely not the last time, a road vehicle ends up in the drink at an Indiana boat ramp. Often the algae line is the culprit as rear wheel drive vehicles sometimes lose all traction when the tires enter the water and creep below the line of algae that often grows on ramps.

In that case a good set of front brakes is your best hope and holding steady on the brake pedal until you can get a pull from someone is the best course of action. If you hit the gas and try to “gun it out” you will often spin your tires forward as your vehicle slides rearward into the abyss.

All in all, things worked with no injuries and everyone went home safe. It was good real-life training for the emergency responders for when lives really are at stake. The gentlemen still have their fishing boat and trailer and I hope insurance covers the man’s truck. Wow, what a day at the lake.

I hope they at least had some of the luck I did catching fish.

For more information: DNR Brookville Lake page


photos and video by author

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Don Cranfill
A native Hoosier, and son of a tournament fisherman, Don literally grew up on the water. Early in life he developed a passion for two things, paddling and fly fishing. Don can often be found stalking the limestone creeks of southern Indiana for Smallmouth Bass, while the off seasons are spent crafting custom hardwood canoe and kayak paddles, making figured-wood fly tying bases and developing the ultimate fly. Contact: or at


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