Mystery solved? Missing man’s truck found at bottom of river

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 1:47 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2022 at 6:45 PM EDT
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DUXBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - A missing person case dating back 16 years may finally have been solved. A team of divers on Wednesday discovered the missing man’s truck at the bottom of the Winooski River.

Donald Messier, 34, of Waterbury, disappeared in 2006 after leaving a party in Waitsfield. Now, members of the group Adventures with Purpose believe they may have found him.

Donald Messier-File photo
Donald Messier-File photo(WCAX)

Adventures with Purpose is a group out of Oregon that specializes in missing person cases. They recently turned their attention to Messier’s case and a stretch of the Winooski River along River Road in Duxbury. A diver went into the deep, murky water Wednesday.

“He got in the water yesterday late, maybe 5 p.m. and verified that it was in fact a red Ford pickup,” said Nick Rinn of Adventures with Purpose.

This is believed to be the truck Messier was said to have been driving the night of his disappearance.

After following leads, divers were able to verify the truck in the water was a red Ford F-150 and recovered the license plate off the truck.

“The vehicle has been under there potentially for 16 years. There’s a lot of debris and peat gravel and river rock maybe two feet deep inside the cab of the vehicle and it is sitting upright,” Rinn said.

Since the discovery, Capt. Matt Daley and the Vermont State Police have taken over the investigation.

“We have the vehicle that we’re looking for,” Daley said. “It’s a piece of evidence, right? Our detectives will try to piece it together.”

Daley says it’s unclear how the truck ended up in the river, and they’re still working to figure out whether Messier’s remains are inside.

“If there are remains in there, great. If not, we will keep on searching. It’s just another place for us to investigate and see if we can’t bring some closure to the family,” Daley said.

Family members at the scene did not want to go on camera but one friend we spoke with said Messier was kind and would go out of his way to help anyone.

“He always loved his Ford truck, he drove it around all the time. Everybody looked for him, we all looked for him. Now, today, here we are. They think they found the truck and hopefully, everybody will be relieved, his parents especially, " said Clement Despault of Waterbury.

The Vermont State Police dive team and crime scene search team will be on the scene starting Thursday morning around 9 a.m, with the goal of lifting the truck out of the river.

So how did this private search group figure out where to look for Messier’s truck? The group focuses on missing people where their vehicles are also missing. In looking at Messier’s case, they found it was likely he would have been driving home on River Road that night on his way home from a party, and they honed in on spots where he could have gone off the road and where the water was deep enough where the truck would not be seen.

Anyone with information that could assist investigators is asked to call the state police in Berlin at 802-229-9191 or to leave an anonymous tip online.