(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
The man, who declined to give his name, had just parked his 2010 Dodge Durango at the top of a boat ramp Thursday at the Diversion Channel when his cellphone rang.
He got out of the sport utility vehicle, took the call and watched in horror as the vehicle suddenly rolled down the ramp, floated to the opposite side of the channel and sank.
"I swear I heard that thing go into park, because it makes that little thud," he said as he sat on the edge of the ramp, waiting for Cape Girardeau firefighters to arrive with a boat and recovery team.
The driver shook his head.
"You see this kind of stuff on TV, and you just subconsciously think, 'How in the hell do people even do that kind of stuff?' and then here you become a party to it," he said.
Aside from his pride, the driver was unhurt.
The same couldn't be said for the Durango, which was submerged in more than 12 feet of water, battalion chief Mark Starnes said in a statement.
"This is truly when it gets into the recovery," said Ron Pratt of Midwest Truck Sales and Service.
A four-man water rescue team from the Cape Girardeau Fire Department took a motorboat into the channel, located the SUV and connected a three-quarter-inch-thick cable to the vehicle so Pratt and his father, Bill Pratt, could pull it out.
While the crew worked, fish swam just below the surface, leaping from the water every few minutes.
It would have been a good day to catch a few, the driver said.
"The fish are floating on top of the water today," he said. "That's what makes it even worse."
Officers from several jurisdictions kept curious bystanders out of the way during the two-hour recovery operation.
The driver said the Durango was insured.
Diversion Channel, Scott City, Mo.