Stolen truck found at bottom of Pratt lake 13 years later

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Truck stolen 13 years ago is found at bottom of Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake this week. Here it sits on Thursday, April 18, 2019, after crews hauled it out of the lake and washed hundreds of gallons of mud out of it. Truck stolen 13 years ago is found at bottom of Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake this week. Here it sits on Thursday, April 18, 2019, after crews hauled it out of the lake and washed hundreds of gallons of mud out of it.
The sheriff says the mud smelled horrible, like a baby's dirty diaper.  Days later it's still wet and sticky. The sheriff says the mud smelled horrible, like a baby's dirty diaper. Days later it's still wet and sticky.
Here's the mud and slime that slid off the truck as crews pulled it out of the lake earlier this week. Here's the mud and slime that slid off the truck as crews pulled it out of the lake earlier this week.
The sheriff says based on the lures and fishing lines found wrapped around the truck it's responsible for ruining the day for at least 15 fishermen over the years. The sheriff says based on the lures and fishing lines found wrapped around the truck it's responsible for ruining the day for at least 15 fishermen over the years.
The truck was found off the second to last pier on the southeastern edge of the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake.  The sheriff believes it was driven off the island in the middle of the lake with a cinder block holding the accelerator in place. The truck was found off the second to last pier on the southeastern edge of the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake. The sheriff believes it was driven off the island in the middle of the lake with a cinder block holding the accelerator in place.
PRATT COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) -

"Just counting fishing lines, this truck has probably ruined at least 15 fishermen's day," said James White, Pratt County Sheriff.

We now know just how big the "one that got away" was at one Pratt County lake: truck-sized!

Thirteen years, that's how long a stolen pick-up truck may have been sitting at the bottom of the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake, southeast of Pratt.  It was discovered this week as the county drained the lake to repair flood damage in the lake's inlet and outlet systems.

"It's been the one that got away for quite awhile," said Jennifer Stultz, editor of the Pratt Tribune, which broke the story.

"It's been the topic of conversation at a lot of events around town," said Gale Rose, the reporter who first dug up the details. 

This is not the story he's used to covering.

"It's very unique," he said.  "It's very different.  And we had a lot of speculation going on in the community."

Stolen from the Offerle Co-op in Edwards County, the next county over, it breached the lake's surface Monday as Pratt County drained the lake.  

"Everybody was joking that, 'll wonder how many cars we're going to find in the lake?'  I had to say it's not a joke.  We're probably going to find at least one in the lake," said White.  "And, Lord knows what else."

It didn't take long for White's words to come true.

"We actually heard it on scanner traffic late Monday night," said Stultz.  "And we're like, did they just say there was a pickup in the lake?"

The lake runs from 8 to 20 feet deep. The truck stands around 5 feet.  By Monday night, the roof of the cab was just barely poking up out of the water.  No one had seen the truck since October 20, 2006.

"It sank right side up," said Rose.

The sheriff says whoever dumped the pickup truck probably ran it off the end of the island in the middle of the lake and it floated awhile before sinking at the end of the second to last pier at the southeast tip of the lake.

Entrenched in the mud at the bottom of the lake, it took the help of county crews with heavy equipment, the fire department, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism to haul the truck back onto dry ground.

"The steering wheel is broken off, there was a cinder block on the accelerator and the keys were still in the ignition in the on position," said Rose.

"(Covered in) fishing lures, completely covered in slime, the cab was completely full of mud to the top of the doors.  The rust barnacles you could push your finger, still can, push your finger through the side of the truck," White said, describing the truck when it first came out of the water.

The truck quickly became the talk of the nearby town.

"It was disbelief at first," Stultz said.  "The Pratt County Lake's not that big.  How can a vehicle be submerged for 13 years?"

There were a lot of rumors surrounding the truck, including that there was a body inside.  The sheriff says when they cleaned it out all they found was a lot of mud smelling like a baby's dirty diaper.

"It was horrible.  Very horrible.  That's probably the nicest description," he said.  "But the biggest thing I've caught out at that lake."

He added, since it's legally too late to prosecute the truck thief and the co-op has long since gotten an insurance payment for the truck, his office will likely be allowed to sell what remains of it for salvage and keep the money.  Making it, finally,  the one that didn't get away.

"We can start joking about how many people have been fishing there and thought maybe they got a hold of something big and lost their lures," laughed Stultz.

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