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Man submerges car on test drive

Becky Vargo • Feb 16, 2017 at 7:21 PM

A 41-year-old Grand Haven man escaped his submerged car without being injured after it went into the south channel near the Third Street Bridge on Feb. 19, 1973.

The story appeared in the Feb. 20, 1973, edition of the Grand Haven Tribune. Additional photos from the incident may be viewed in a Tribune Throwback Thursday gallery, along with many other photos from the same time period, at ghtrib.com/photos.

John R. VerDuin, who lived at 431 Leggatt St., was test driving a 1970 stationwagon from Don Rosso’s, 9 Washington Ave. Police said, according to the article, that VerDuin was traveling at a high rate of speed on North Third Street as he approached the bridge. He hit the brakes, lost control of the car and went up over a large snow pile on the east side of the bridge, flew through the air and smashed through the ice.

The car went below the surface and the pressure made it impossible for VerDuin to open the driver’s side door. VerDuin said he was able to push open the passenger-side door with his feet to get out.

“I crawled through the small opening, kicked my feet, and came to the surface and got onto the ice,” he told the Tribune.

The car was in about 5 feet of water and the ice was 3-4 inches thick at the time.

Rosso said the car was a total loss because of the damage from going through the ice and from the water. He valued the car at $2,500. It was covered by insurance, he added.

VerDuin was taking the car to the Board of Light & Power plant on Harbor Island, where he worked.

Other photos in this week’s Throwback Thursday gallery include then-14-year-old Jeff Jordan showing an 1,800-pound French Charolais bull purchased by the Danfield Charolais farm on Leonard Road; Ken Larson’s conservation class helping thin a wooded area near the junior high school; and the Sweet Adelines and the Senior Citizen Kitchen Band entertaining at Spring Lake Village Hall during the Winter Weekend in the Village, which was still held despite the “warm and snowless weather.”

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