Shore wheel drive: Gallery, video

Source: Newcastle Herald

AT first glance it must have looked like a flailing sea creature, a large dark shape being tossed around in the powerful shorebreak at Stockton beach.

But what first appeared to be a large marine mammal was actually a two-tonne four-wheel-drive. 

The mystery vehicle – a dark blue Holden Jackaroo – was spotted submerged in water about a kilometre south of the start of the recreational vehicle area at Stockton  about 11am on Monday, just after high tide.

Police and ambulance paramedics were called and summoned a tow truck  to pull the machine from the surf. 

As news spread and onlookers gathered, tow-truck driver Peter Hayes tore into his task with vigour.  

Just as the four-wheel-drive bobbed and moved with the tide, so did Mr Hayes. 

Up to his neck in water or being smashed off his feet by whitewash, he wrestled with the metal beast until he had a winch clipped under the front bullbar. 

Once it was secure, a NSW Marine Area Command officer was able to check inside the vehicle and its boot and confirm there was no one inside. The car had sustained several significant dents to the doors, had a few flat tyres and a busted window. 

The plates had been removed but an adorning fishing-themed bumper sticker, some blue tarp and what looked like an esky remained intact. Mr Hayes said getting it out of the water and onto the beach was only half the problem. 

It took another 4  hours before the car, now full of sand and water, could be towed off the beach and put onto the back of a flat bed. 

Police indicated the tow fell into the category of ‘‘owner to pay’’, meaning the person responsible could be out of pocket several thousand dollars if they wanted the car back.

Mr Hayes said a tow-truck driver might get ‘‘half a dozen marine salvages a year’’ and there was no point in trying to avoid getting wet. 

Despite a number of people on the beach, no one came forward to claim ownership of the vehicle.

A police spokesman said it was unclear whether the vehicle had been stolen and dumped or whether the owner had taken it fishing and become bogged before the rising tide whisked it off the beach.

Last night police said they had identified the owner and would be taking further action.

Residents reported seeing the car upright on the sand earlier in the morning and assumed it had stopped momentarily  on the way to Stockton’s iconic dunes, a popular spot among four-wheel-drive enthusiasts. 

A spokesman for the National Parks and Wildlife Service said private cars were not permitted to drive there.

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