CAMPBELL COUNTY, KY (FOX19) - High and rising water has temporarily suspended the search for victims in a vehicle that plunged off the Combs-Hehl Bridge into the Ohio River, officials announced Wednesday.
The vehicle was located Tuesday after it fell during a 12-vehicle crash about 4:45 p.m. from the bridge that links Ohio and Kentucky over the river along Interstate 275.
But it's too dangerous now for divers to continue recovery efforts, Campbell County police said.
It will likely be Sunday or Monday before Ohio River conditions are safe enough for the search to continue, officials said.
Police said they do not have confirmation on the type of vehicle, registration, owner or the potential occupants in the car.
Some information they received indicates it may be a red passenger car, possibly a Pontiac Grand Prix or similar type vehicle.
Police are asking for anyone unable to account for the whereabouts of friends or relatives who may have been traveling in this area to contact them at 859-547-3100.
On Wednesday morning, the Ohio Coast Guard's Louisville office announced the Ohio River was shut down two miles west of the bridge and one mile to the east, said Lt. Chris Pince of the Coast Guard's Louisville office. It reopened around 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Pence said river travel is permitted at the slowest and safest speed in the mile before and after the bridge.
An overnight water search for victims in the car was called off about 1:30 a.m.
Sonar imaging located the car at the bottom of the river about four hours after the pileup.
Divers from a Boone County water rescue team went into the water overnight.
Campbell County Police Chief Craig Sorrell said Tuesday night crews would attempt to identify whether victims are inside the vehicle before removing it from the water.
Sorrell said four separate accidents happened on the bridge, starting a chain reaction as other cars tried to slow down and navigate through.
The vehicle was about halfway across the bridge when it was involved in another crash, fell over the side and plunged into the river below.
Michael Purvis said he was in the middle of the pile-up that ultimately sent the car over the bridge.
"I noticed that the cars in my rear-view mirror were catching up pretty quick," Purvis told FOX19 NOW.
Purvis said a maroon colored vehicle was approaching quickly and frantically swerving. He said the car clipped a semi-truck, then hit the side of the wall.
Somewhere in the havoc, Purvis said the maroon car went over the bridge.
"I kept thinking, that was the one vehicle I was looking for and it was gone," Purvis said.
The rescue efforts shut down eastbound I-275 near I-471 for several hours and delayed motorists heading to vote in the Ohio primary.
Multiple Zodiac and police boats were in the water for what officials called an "extensive search" involving multiple jurisdictions.
Becky Stratton, who was on the bridge at the time of the crash, said semi-truck was involved and struck several other vehicles.
"I saw metal, I saw smoke, I saw tons of stuff flying in the air," said Stratton.
It's not clear how many passengers were inside the car.
The distance from the bridge roadway to the water is approximately 100 feet.