Body found inside vehicle pulled from Illinois River

By WEEK Producer

May 7, 2013 Updated May 7, 2013 at 7:06 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- A Peoria family's worst fears are realized after a fire rescue and dive team located the body of missing Peoria man Clarence Hanson inside his SUV after it was pulled from the Illinois River Tuesday afternoon.

The discovery ends a three day search for the 33-year-old man who family members say was missing since Friday.

Early Saturday morning a witness told Peoria Police they saw a white SUV floating on the Illinois River just off State Street but swift river currents and flood debris hampered dive team efforts to retrieve the vehicle.

Just before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday the Peoria Fire Department's Rescue and Dive Team was finally able to remove the SUV from the water. Hanson's body was still inside.

Authorities say the water is typically only 12 feet deep in that area but due to recent flooding and strong water currents the area is now twice as deep.

Fire department Batallion Chief Ed Olehy says they used sonar equipment to locate the vehicle but river conditions made it difficult to retreive.

"It was just very hard to stay on top of the car because as soon as you slowed the boat down the current would take you away. It was just a matter of getting a fixed point on and getting that hook on the car was a big step for us," said Olehy.

Now Hanson's family is left wondering how and why the Chevrolet Tahoe wound up in the water.

"I'm just glad the closure has come," said Hanson's relative Gwendolyn Purnell. "They brought him up, it's just a hurting thing. I just want to know how and why it happened. That's what I want to know."

One family member says that Clarence Hanson had gone out with a friend to a club and the pair parted ways around 2:00 a.m. Saturday.

Peoria Police Captain Mike Scally says right now it does not look like there were any signs of foul play.

Peoria County Corner Johnna Ingersoll says an autopsy will be conducted to determine if drowning was the cause of death.