Nothing fishy about BMW submerged in Burnsville pond for 20-plus years, sheriff says

23 April 2024

A car spotted submerged in a Burnsville pond by a man and his drone last week set off a recovery effort and then a slew of theories online on how it ended up there.

In a Monday Facebook post, the Dakota County sheriff’s office said the drone captured the roof of the car in a pond at Neill Park on April 16. The sheriff’s office shared a picture of the 1983 BMW after its dive team pulled the sedan onto shore — and said they believe it had been immersed for more than 20 years.

The Facebook post led to more than 125 comments, with many people speculating the car had been dumped because it was stolen or that it could have ties to an unsolved crime. A few playfully suggested it was Jimmy Hoffa’s.

Sheriff Joe Leko said Tuesday the backstory is not nearly as interesting as the speculation.

“People thought there was something fishy, but there was not,” he said, adding they processed the car and found nothing suspicious.

Detectives were able to reach the last known owner of the car through sheer luck. It did not have license plates and the vehicle identification number did not come back to anyone, said Chief Deputy Dan Bianconi. But surprisingly, he said, a bill of sale from 1986 was found in the glove box — and managed to stay dry. So, they had a name.

A detective tracked down the person on the paperwork, a man who is now 80 years old and living in Plymouth. He told the detective he believes the car was sold or traded, but doesn’t recall for sure because it had been so many years, Leko said.

“We suspect the title was not transferred and the car was dumped,” the sheriff’s office said Tuesday in an update on Facebook. “Sorry to disappoint, but we don’t think this story will be covered in your favorite true crime podcast. It’s just a car in a pond.”

Many people wondered online how it was able to remain undetected for so long. Leko said Tuesday the car became visible because of the pond’s low water level this year and that algae has yet to bloom. “Two months from now, you wouldn’t see it, because of all the green,” he said.

It’s the latest case of a sunken vehicle being discovered because of advanced technology, Leko said. A car was pulled from the Mississippi River near the Wakota Bridge in South St. Paul in September 2022 after a fisherman saw it on his sonar, Leko said, adding that depth finders have also spotted vehicles in the Minnesota River.

Vehicles are mostly found near boat launches, especially in rivers, Leko said, where “people just put them in neutral and push them in the water. They get caught in the current, and down they go.”

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