Clarence Hanson found inside car recovered from Illinois River

By Ashley McNamee

May 7, 2013 Updated May 8, 2013 at 10:42 AM CDT

PEORIA, IL -- A Peoria family is mourning the loss of a loved one after he and his SUV were recovered from the Illinois River Tuesday afternoon.

It was the outcome they were dreading and now they are left with more questions.

"We saw the white truck and we all was for sure, once we did see that white truck, that it did belong to Clarence," said Shirette Williams, Clarence Hanson's cousin.

Family members gathered on Peoria's Riverfront Tuesday as fire crews pulled the white Chevy Tahoe from the flooded river.

"It does give us a little closure, Clarence is not going to return home," said Williams.

The coroner confirmed what the family feared, 33-year-old Hanson was inside his car. How he died is still unknown.

"I need to be able to take a look and really examine this person who is deceased and then follow through with x-rays and autopsy," said Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll.

The last time the family heard from Hanson was Friday night. We went out with his cousin and they separated at the end of the night. A witness called police early Saturday morning to report a white SUV drove into the river from State Street.

"Why didn't somebody do something then, when it was on top of the water? They got the call," said one family member.

Peoria Battalion Chief Ed Olehy says firefighters tried for days, but the river was too high and too dangerous, even on Tuesday.

"The conditions of the water still did not allow us to send one of our divers down, we went to a second option, to try to hook it with anything we could get ahold of," he said. "It ended up being a good option, it work for us."

Now the family is trying to understand why.

"It is just a hurting thing, I just want to know how and why it happened," said Gwendolyn Purnell, Hanson's cousin.

Autopsy results may help answer why.

The coroner is conducting the autopsy Wednesday.

Hanson leaves behind his parents and daughter.