Rescuers confirm missing woman was inside mini-van

December 21, 2010 9:48:35 AM PST
Investigators in Sonoma County confirmed there was a body in the mini-van they pulled out of the Russian River in Jenner on Monday evening, and it was the missing Southern California woman, Phyllis Bin.

Crews pulled a white 2010 Tracer mini-van from the Russian River near Jenner after a woman disappeared on Saturday night during the storms. The 62-year-old apparently got disoriented during the storm while driving back to her hotel, and ended up driving into the river.

Due to the recent storms crews had a hard time trying to recover the vehicle.

"With the water being chocolate brown, that's really difficult to find and see, the visibility is zero," Lt. Steve Brown from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Dept. said.

The last time the Agoura Hills resident was seen alive was on Saturday night at the River's End restaurant in Jenner. According to the restaurant staff, Bin and her party arrived at the eatery at around 6:30 p.m. and took a corner table. They spent three hours eating crabs and Bin never had a drink.

"They had dinner in Jenner and they left in two separate vehicles and the vehicle in front noticed that she wasn't behind. After about two miles down the road, they came back looking and couldn't find her," Brown said.

On Sunday, Sonoma County deputies identified a part of Highway 1 near Jenner where the van possibly had left the road. It is less than one mile from the restaurant.

"We found some tire tracks out there yesterday and there was some oil bumbling up, a little bit of oil and fumes," Brown.

Locals describe this section of the road as a treacherous drive.

"You don't see the turn coming. There are turns that you don't end up seeing coming, and you end up going off," Jenner resident Alicia Roberts said.

All of Monday afternoon deputies from Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties used sonar and underwater cameras to search, and after the oil appeared again, they used a large magnet. Late in the day, the camera found a wheel and the magnet helped them place a buoy and at around 4:45 p.m., a diver went to confirm that the mini-van was lying on its side.

Bin was staying in a hotel in Santa Rosa. She planned to continue driving to Oregon for the Christmas holiday.


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