John Wooner

John Wooner

The Kern County Sheriff's Office on July 31 identified John Wooner, former McFarland city manager, as the man whose body was found inside a car in the Kern River.

Wooner was found inside a silver 2012 Dodge Durango, which was found submerged in the Kern River on July 27. Wooner was in the back of the car and was not wearing a seat belt.

His identity was verified via dental records, KCSO said.

California Highway Patrol said in a news release that Wooner was traveling at an unknown speed and in an unknown direction on Highway 178 in the Kern River Canyon when he made an unsafe turning movement before the vehicle tumbled down the embankment into the river.

The vehicle was found about a mile east of a power station at the beginning of the canyon.

Investigators have not determined a timeline for the incident, but CHP Officer Robert Rodriguez said the vehicle was spotted after the river’s water levels dropped, allowing a passerby to see it from the roadway.

Sand and rocks from the river were found inside the vehicle, indicating the current had pushed debris into the interior over a period of time.

Wooner, who has been replaced as city manager due to his absence, went missing May 14 after visiting the gravesite of a relative at Hillcrest Cemetery in Bakersfield. Afterward, he called his family and said he was headed to his home in Bakersfield. It is unclear why he would have been driving through the Kern River Canyon.

Few details have been released regarding the disappearance of the former city manager, but law enforcement has said they believe it occurred under “suspicious circumstances.”

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