Family looks on as crews in recover woman’s body from Sacramento River

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jan 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-23 18:51:03-05

ISLETON, Calif. -- Nearly one week after a mother somehow drove her car into the Sacramento River off Highway 160, her car was recovered from the water.

The Sacramento County Coroner's Office identified Nichele Johnson's body Saturday night after family members claimed they knew it was her all along.

"It's definitely her car, she's in it," said family member Sheila Burton.

Loved ones lined the levee road on Highway 160 in Isleton Saturday morning. They watched in disbelief as cables dragged Nichele Johnson's mangled car from the bottom of the Sacramento River.

The victim's uncle, Earl Miller said, "I'm so sad and I'm heartbroken right now."

Johnson's car went into the water Sunday, but dangerous conditions put off the recovery until Saturday according to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

Recent storms filled the river with debris. Investigators said it's impossible for divers to see underwater which made the recovery that much more difficult.

"Had to be guided in by sonar to the car a lot of what they're doing isn't by sight it's by touch," said Sgt. Tony Turnbull with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

The family of the 48-year-old victim calls the recovery a victory. They'll celebrate Johnson's life while remembering their last memories with her.

"Barging her way into the house right after Christmas with gifts catching me and my wife in our underwear my last memory is the great memory ever," Miller said.

The recovery was a multi-agency effort. The Solano County Office of Emergency Services, Sacramento Sheriff’s Marine Detail and search and rescue team, US Coast Guard, the California Highway Patrol and Isleton Fire Department all assisted.