[UPDATED With Photos] Diver and Orleans VFD Located Vehicle That Carried Mother and Daughters Into the Klamath River

The Klamath River near the scene of the crash. [Photo provided by Orleans Volunteer Fire Department]

The Klamath River near the scene of the crash. [Photo provided by Orleans Volunteer Fire Department]

By a process much like braille, this morning a diver working with the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department located the vehicle that carried Elizabeth Palmer and her two daughters, Lizzie and Victoria to their deaths on March 5.

Elizabeth Palmer, Victoria and Lizzie

Elizabeth Palmer, Victoria and Lizzie in a photo taken about a year ago. [Photo provided by the family]

Elizabeth’s sister, Carolyn Palmer, asked that the community be told how much it means that the vehicle has been located. She said she was told by law enforcement that for sure at least some of the family is in the vehicle. “My sister’s body is in there,” she said. “[The diver] could only see the car seats but not the girls but they have to be in there, too, because they were seatbelted in.”

She said the family understood why no one could go after the vehicle earlier. “We didn’t want anyone else to get hurt, but,” she said simply, “then again, they are our family.” She said the family is relieved to know that her sister and nieces are going to be recovered soon.

The operation to recover the vehicle started early today.

The Klamath River near the scene of the crash. [Photo provided by Orleans Volunteer Fire Department]

The diver and boat crew at river’s edge. [Photo provided by Orleans Volunteer Fire Department]

“We got a boat and diver in the water this morning about 10:30,” said Orleans Volunteer Fire Department Board member, Penny Eckert. “The water has not come up a lot. It’s cloudy and it’s fast but we have experienced people here.”

Local people have been part of the search and rescue efforts almost from the first, Eckert explained. The next morning after the crash, she said, “Local folks who were still concerned about the family hiked to the area where the car entered the river.”

She described the process in an email. The searchers, she said,

 … went down a river access trail, crossed a creek, and searched the steep slope the car took from the highway to the river.  They walked along the river banks where they were even marginally accessible downriver of the entry site on both sides of the river.  Other people descended from the highway to search.  Car parts were found on the trail the car took down the slope to the river—a bumper, a headlight—along with a debris trail of items that came out of the car as it rolled down the steep slope.  No people were found though several folks searched.  The car apparently entered the Klamath River directly at the bottom of the trail of debris left from the accident between Highway 96 and the river.

The searchers believed the car was near the entry point, Eckert explained, “because it is a quiet back eddy, not a swift current portion of the river.”

Rescue boat in the Klamath River.

Rescue boat in the Klamath River. [Photo provided by Orleans Volunteer Fire Department]

This morning, the diver suited up and slipped into the cold, cloudy waters of the Klamath with a boat from Orleans Fire standing by. “In about a half hour, the diver located the vehicle pretty much by braille,” Eckert said. “They were able to get cables on the vehicle and get it attached to a tree on shore.”

At this point, the California Highway Patrol and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office are working to remove the vehicle from the water where it is located about 12 feet off the bank.

UPDATE March 9: The California Highway Patrol have confirmed that the bodies of Elizabeth Palmer and her two daughters were recovered.

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  • Laytonville Rock
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42 comments

  • Very sad situation I’m glad I wasn’t one of the divers or Volunteer Firefighters I can’t think of anything more horrible than finding this!!!! Extremely sad situation for ALL concened!!!

  • I’m so glad they found them & so sad that they weren’t able to find them alive. This story breaks my heart. Prayers for the husband so that he may heal from this tragedy.

  • sharpen your pencil

    So sad. Condolences to the family and other loved ones….

  • DumpTrumptheChump

    Heartbreaking. Prayers for the family left behind.

  • My deepest sympathies to their loved ones. So tragic.

  • So terribly sorry to hear this sad news. My prayers to the family and loved ones.

  • This poor man has to start a whole new life and identity. No longer a husband or father, I cannot imagine what he must be going through. At least one thing he does have is strong community backing him. Condolences to the families involved.

  • Rest in paradise young ladies….

  • quietly grieving

    My heart breaks for this family. Prayers for those left behind. Peace and love to the three beautiful angels.

  • We live in an awesome community ! The 20k goal for funeral expenses should be met by today on the go fund me page. Let’s pass the goal and keep giving. The community is showing it’s true colors in the face of a horrible tragedy. Proud to live here.

  • This is just horrible.

  • Theres no place like home,the people here in HUMBOLDT are so giving and come together in times of need. God bless this family and give them a healing hand!!

  • Great job by Penny and Dave Eckert and the Orleans Volunteers, doing the job that state agencies didn’t seem fit to do. You all are the heroes of this sad story.

    • 20k goal just reached 328 people in 1 day….

    • Again…YAY locals! I am proud to be in my community, Carlotta, Scotia, Rio Dell, Scotia, finally back to Carlotta for 21 years! Kids raised here, LOVE when the locals fix things, instead of waiting for someone else! Thank you to all for finding the car, and all the wonderful donations! Way to pull together! Still LOVE living here!

  • Prayers to all of the family. This is such a tragedy. If it made me cry and get so emotional I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be for the family. So sorry for the huge loss.

  • We, too, are river people, and live knowing that the highway and the river are very dangerous. Our hearts go out to you…

  • Donate to your local volunteer fire department! Bless those guys!

  • This is such a tragedy. I certainly hope the find all three so family has closer. our thoughts and prayers to the family

  • Tears for the tragedy to the family. Thanks to all the folks who tried and supported. Blessings to all the family, friends and connected community folk who are affected. I had a best friend years ago who died in a tragic accident for which the persons closest to him were breifly and “routinely criminally investigated” during their grief and shock, for no actual reason and were forever emotionally maimed. Support! Support! life is very messy and likely to get worse for a while. Support! Let’s be humans.

  • Stephen G.Kendall

    I have list more friends than I can count to the river I was,raised in Happy Camp but we are all river people my heart goes,out to the father and to the three angels that up with Jehova now blessed be the living for they bare the memories God bless the VIDEO and all who searched

  • Although I don’t know the family or the dear ones lost so tragically, I am grieved by this terrible accident. My sincerest condolences, along with thoughts and prayers, for the family.

  • My heart goes out to surviving family. I can’t even imagine what you are going through. I wish you strength and peace my friend.

  • Much love and hugs to the family and friends of this beautiful family. A heartbreaking tragedy.

  • So so sorry and sad for this whole family, especially to the father/husband. Words cannot really say to much, but that is all I have to give. Other than to pray and lift you up in prayer to God.

  • There are simply no words I can find to adequately express to you, members of our community, friends, friends of friends, our emergency services, highway patrol, police services, search and rescue, loved ones and local residents for your support, love effort and even the risks of your own lives never ended thank you and gratitude to each and every one of you for helping to find and recovery my daughter Lizzy and my grandchildren. My son-in-law’s entire life was swept away that day. His grief is undescribeable. His guilt for just being alive and continuing wish to join his family, his reason for living, is very real and heartbreaking for us all. Thank you again for you prayers and support as we work at helping Odir find peace. A lifetime of peacereal and blessings go out to you all

    • So, so sorry for your grief. Praying that you and your family find peace.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss and immense pain. I can’t imagine everything this father is dealing with. Very very traumatic situation. I hope he never gives up and knows his entire community and supporting him.

    • His reason to keep living is understandably unclear.

      He must find enough light to live on – so he knows, one day, why he survived. There will be reasons.

      Journey on brother, you are tested like few others. Everyone wants you to survive the pain. I’m sure you would want your kids or wife to shine and live on had the outcome been reversed.

      Good luck brother, Grandma, and families.

  • ❤💚💜💙😢🙏🙏💖

  • Without saying the driver was at fault, is there anything lesson we can take from this? Drive slower, carry chains, anything like that?

    • Accidents happen? Living life can be dangerous?

    • Yes. Hug your loved ones and never forget that each day is a gift.

    • Dont take anything for granted.
      Be present in each moment especially when with loved ones.
      See your family, extended family, friends often and create amazing memories. When our loved ones pass the thing we have that wont leave are the memories, the stories. Hug often.
      Rember sh*t happens, we’re not running this show. Everything in your life can be lost in a matter of minutes, cherish the time you have.

  • Veterans friend

    Unspeakable sadness

  • Weldo hailey you are sooo right,the community is pretty tight knit, there is always someone who can get the job done. Extremely sorry for all concerned, heartfelt condolences!!!!

  • I can’t imagine what it’s like for this diver and everyone working on this recovery. Prayers to all involved. My heart is broken for this family.

  • I hope and pray that the recovery will provide some closure and start the healing process. My heart goes out to their family and friends.

  • I just can’t even imagine. I’m so terribly heartbroken for the little girls.

  • Roberta and Mark DeRose

    I don’t know what to say!!! I know God takes the best home early!!!!!!!!!! I guess the rest of us need to work harder to get to Heaven! The North State will be sending the family all of its Prayers!!! Hopefully the Father will find comfort in our Lord!!!! We are all saddened by this and will never forget!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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