Vehicle containing human remains found in South Jersey river

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Divers work with a crane operator to hoist a vehicle from the Salem River on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 16, 2020. Suspected human remains were found in the vehicle. (Matt Gray/)

A car with the remains of an adult inside was discovered in the Salem River on Thursday morning, authorities said.

Diving contractors doing work in the area discovered the vehicle in the water near Broadway and Front streets in Salem and notified authorities, according to Salem County Prosecutor John T. Lenahan.

“We’re at the early stages of this,” Lenahan reported.

Investigators could be seen along the waterfront at the Port of Salem during the afternoon as workers prepared to hoist the vehicle from the water. It was removed from the river by late in the afternoon and an autopsy on the remains is scheduled for Friday. The remains have not been identified.

“We’ve got a number of assets called to the scene,” Lenahan said, including the New Jersey State Police Marine Unit.

It’s not clear how the vehicle ended up in the water or how long it has been there.

In a statement late Thursday, State Police confirmedthe remains were that of an adult, but released few details on the investigation.

The vehicle is badly mangled, so identifying a make and model is tricky at this stage, Lenahan said, but a vehicle identification number will answer those questions.

“The vehicle is just crushed,” he said. “It’s indescribable.”

Once they have the vehicle identification number, commonly known as the VIN, investigators will look into any missing persons reports or other incidents related to the vehicle.

Authorities are aware of no recent missing persons cases that would seem to link to this discovery, Lenahan said.

“How this vehicle ended up in the Salem River is questionable,” he said. “Did they drive off the road? We’re just trying to piece it together.”

Divers with Walker Diving Underwater Construction were doing an inspection dive to check for obstructions in the water that could interfere with shipping when they discovered the vehicle, an official with the company said.

The company had worked there previously and were asked to return for another inspection, he said. He declined to comment further.

Investigators on the scene where a car with what appears to be skeletal human remains inside was discovered in the Salem River, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (Al Amrhein | For NJ Advance Media/)

Matt Gray may be reached at mgray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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