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Coroner identifies Ottawa man as person found dead in vehicle

Witnesses say he drove into the Illinois River at Allen Park in Ottawa

A 39-year-old Ottawa man was found dead Thursday in his vehicle after emergency personnel pulled his SUV from the Illinois River in Ottawa.

The La Salle County Coroner's Office identified Matthew W. Rosenstiel as the driver Friday morning.

The white Chevy Blazer was pulled up from the Illinois River at Allen Park in Ottawa.

Multiple agencies searched the river after witnesses told police someone drove a vehicle into the Illinois River at about 2:11 p.m. Thursday.

Emergency crews pulled the SUV from the Illinois River near Allen Park at about 5:50 p.m. A coroner's office official responded to the scene about 6:30 p.m.

An autopsy has been ordered, Ottawa Detective Sgt. Kyle Booras said Thursday.

The park was closed as emergency and rescue crews worked Thursday. Boats using sonar technology were deployed to search for the vehicle.

The incident is under further investigation by the coroner's office and Ottawa Police Department.

The recovery

Within four minutes of the call, Ottawa firefighters were launching their boat at Allen Park, with several Ottawa River Rescue Squad volunteers not far behind.

Ottawa River Rescue Vice President Brian Brenbarger was one of the first to report to the station on Hitt Street. The three initial volunteers set out on a 24-foot deck boat, and as more volunteers arrived, they eventually put five boats on the water.

"We arrived about 2:40 (p.m.) and Ottawa Fire had a boat in and they were using their sonar," Brenbarger said. River Rescue members then used a large hook to also drag for the submerged vehicle.

Soon after, MABAS Division 15 emergency personnel, including a dive team, arrived with several boats and more advanced sonar equipment, which was able to locate the vehicle about 40 to 60 feet from shore, Brenbarger estimated. The river depth in that area is typically 10 to 15 feet, although it could've been higher due to the recent high river levels.

"It was a pretty heavy vehicle, and the current wasn’t real strong, although the river level is high. It wasn’t downstream much further then where it went in," Brenbarger said.

Emergency officials couldn't provide an exact time frame of how long it took to locate the SUV, but Ottawa Deputy Fire Chief Brian Bressner said the actual search took about a couple hours, maybe less. Brenbarger said the last boat came out of the water about 7 p.m.

"We're not in Cancun with clear waters; you can't see down," Bressner noted, adding the mutual aid response worked very well.

"Having Division 15 there, they were here extremely, extremely fast in getting there," Bressner said. "Just how fast they assembled their dive team ..."

Personnel from Will and Grundy counties, including Channahon, Morris, Wilmington, Plainfield and Braidwood, among others, responded as part of Division 15.

Once the vehicle was located, scuba divers with Division 15 relayed information about the position of the SUV to help prepare for its tow out of the water.

Ottawa River Rescue and the fire department don't have trained dive teams, as most of their work with river calls is done from boats or the shore.

"We normally physically do not enter the water, but based on the call that may change," Brenbarger said. "If we know there’s an ice rescue, we have 'Gumby' suits (an immersion, or survival suit that protects from hypothermia in cold water)." The river temperature Thursday afternoon was about 48 degrees, with the temperature outside hovering around 30 degrees.

Brenbarger also noted the response went well. "It was great to see a lot of departments we don't normally get a chance to work together with ... it really shows how the departments' training and professionalism (work well) when they come together."

Brenbarger, who's volunteered with Ottawa River Rescue for 19 years, said squad members participate in training for 20 days in a two-month period usually in April and May. Training includes dragging, first-aid, and hands-on practice with equipment such as hooks and ropes. There's currently 21 volunteers on the squad.

Bressner said Ottawa firefighters try to train three or four times a year on the water. Unlike Ottawa River Rescue, which travels beyond the city limits for calls, the Ottawa Fire Department's responsibility when it comes to water rescues is primarily within the city.

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