Stolen Buick First Out as Crews Start Fishing for Used Cars in Houston’s Bayous

Sunken Vehicle Removal from Brays Bayou at S. Wayside Dr., Gulfgate, Houston, 77023

A 1987 Buick Regal was pulled from Brays Bayou yesterday, as a $49,500 pilot program to remove about 127 vehicles thought to be sunk along the bottom of several of Houston’s major bayous revved up. Divers working at the crossing of S. Wayside Dr. attached bright yellow floaties to the sedan to help it swim to the surface before it was lifted onto the shore, where police identified it as reported stolen in 1998. Mike Talbott of the Harris County Flood Control District expects that crews will be able to remove some 20 to 25 cars before the money runs out.

The Buick is one of the drowned cars mapped by Texas Equusearch in 2011, as the nonprofit used a sonar-equipped boat to look for a missing woman in a Black Dodge Avenger (later found in a retention pond off Old Galveston Rd.). Assistant Chief Mark Curran of HPD told ABC 13 that most of the cars at the bottom of Brays and Sims Bayous were probably joyridden and then dumped. Stolen vehicles have been found in other Houston-area water bodies, including that 1985 Fiero uncovered in 2011 during the extended drought which brought down Lake Houston water levels.

Floating yellow containment booms spanned the waterway downstream of yesterday morning’s operation to catch any oil or gasoline that might leak from the vehicles during the removal process:


Sunken Vehicle Removal from Brays Bayou at S. Wayside Dr., Gulfgate, Houston, 77023

Steve Hupp of the Bayou Preservation Association reported no visible leaks, but did report seeing fish making a hasty exit from the vehicle as it was raised. Hupp also snapped this shot of the action from above, showing the swaths of fabric that came up from the bayou bottom along with the car:

Sunken Vehicle Removal from Brays Bayou at S. Wayside Dr., Gulfgate, Houston, 77023

Sunken Vehicle Removal from Brays Bayou at S. Wayside Dr., Gulfgate, Houston, 77023

A second vehicle was removed later in the day: a 1985-ish Hyundai Excel which will likely be listed by HPD as unidentifiable. 

Photos: Steve Hupp (top and 3rd photos), Steve Campion (2nd photo),  Cindy George (bottom photo)


Nice Catch Under Wayside Dr.

8 Comment

  • Wow …. $2000 per recovered car. I am in the wrong business.

  • I hear you, WR, but look at the complicated process they have employed.. They’re not throwing a hook out there and dragging the vehicles in, as any sane person would do. There are floaties, there are booms to contain fluids that have been leaking for years and there seems to be legions of paid observers. Costs mount.

  • You have to wonder what the city is going to do with the cars after they pull them out. Do they have to tow them to an impound yard, give notice to the record owners, lienholders, and insurance companies, and then sell the scrap at auction? This is going to be an expensive endeavor for no real purpose.

  • @Matthew Wylie, I would tend to agree with you. If there are any bodies down there, and cases can be closed (and family members given closure, too), then the cost seems reasonable. But really we won’t know until it’s all over whether it was worth it or not.

  • I think the point of clearing out the bayous of these submerged cars is so that there’s room for the next wave of submerged cars.

    Now that the 1987 Buick and 1985 Hyundai are gone, it is time for the 2016 models to move on in.
    (cue car salesman voice) What do we have to do to get your car into the bayou today?

  • These are all potential crime scenes. I’m guessing most people who put a car into a bayou and leave it there don’t do it accidentally. Even if there aren’t remains inside them, they may contain clues.

  • If my car were stolen, even 30 years ago, I would still be pissed off enough to demand justice and investigate the case for clues. Some of those thieves may still be out there, though they probably were killed in a gag war in the 90’s.

  • irregardless of whether crime scenes or not, the $2K still seems worth it to me to reduce the pollution and safety concerns of our waterways for future residents. perhaps it’s the boy scout in me, but I fully believe in leaving this place cleaner than we found it, but you know, excluding the 50Te of junk I’ll be contributing to a landfill over the course of my life.