Stolen, empty SUV found in Oceano Dunes creek crossing

A car found stuck in the flooded Arroyo Grande Creek early Wednesday morning appears to have been stolen from Santa Maria, authorities say.

The SUV was found around 7:40 a.m., partially submerged in the raging waterway where the stream flows through the Oceano Dunes into the ocean.

Sgt. Mike Lack with California State Parks said the car was in water up to its roof when authorities responded. A quick inspection showed nobody inside the vehicle.

Cal Fire performed a water rescue operation in case the driver had been swept into the water, but that later turned into a search operation when no driver was located.

Lack said State Parks has since spoken with the car’s owner, who said the SUV was stolen from his daughter in Santa Maria. No stolen vehicle report has yet been filed, however. Lack said State Parks will treat it as an abandoned vehicle case until a stolen vehicle report is filed.

The driver of the vehicle appears to have driven down to that portion of the beach — which was closed because of the possibility of strong current at the creek crossing — sometime between the morning shift changes, Lack said.

“It looks like he was maybe driving down there, saw the closures, and then got stuck in the creek,” Lack said.

The car was removed from the water around 10:20 a.m.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie