Drone flier spots stolen car in riverbed, man arrested

An alert resident who was flying a drone over the Virgin River in the Bloomington area Tuesday spotted a suspicious man and what police say was a stolen car, St. George, Utah, April 4, 2017 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

ST. GEORGE A call to police from an alert citizen about a suspicious person led to the arrest of a man found with a stolen car stuck in a sandbank of the Virgin River.

Spencer Troy Hafen, bookings photo | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office

A resident was out flying a drone up and down the Virgin River about 1 p.m. Tuesday when he saw a man and a vehicle down in the riverbed in the Bloomington area, St. George Police Sgt. Tyler Cowan said.

“All the property was kind of just drug out from the driver’s seat, laying on the ground,” Cowan said. “It just didn’t look right to him so he called the police.”

As police were making contact with the driver, they were notified by dispatch that the car had been reported stolen, Cowan said.

Spencer Troy Hafen, 51, of Santa Clara, was arrested on the spot, Cowan said.

“And we’ve been working ever since to try to get it (the vehicle) unstuck from the river bed,” Cowan said at about 2 p.m.

An alert resident who was flying a drone over the Virgin River in the Bloomington area Tuesday spotted a suspicious man and what police say was a stolen car, St. George, Utah, April 4, 2017 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

The stolen vehicle, a Honda Civic, was buried up to the axles in sand, Cowan said, on a beach of the Virgin River in an area east of Mulberry Drive.

Superior Towing was called to extricate the car from the riverbed and brought a Jeep along with a flatbed trailer. After multiple attempts, the crew was able to pull the vehicle out of the sand and onto solid ground.

Hafen was allegedly found with the vehicle owner’s ID, bank card and some cash; officers also found drug paraphernalia and what appeared to be methamphetamine in the man’s pockets, Cowan said.

The owner of the stolen car was called to the scene to see if anything else was missing from the car; the Honda was not operational and had to be towed from the scene.

An alert resident who was flying a drone over the Virgin River in the Bloomington area Tuesday spotted a suspicious man and what police say was a stolen car, St. George, Utah, April 4, 2017 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

Hafen is being held in the Purgatory Correctional Facility on several charges including possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia and theft.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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Email: japplegate@stgnews.com
Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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