A diver swims back from a submerged Ford Bronco that drove off the Bar Island path off Bar Harbor at low tide and got stuck on Saturday, April 16, 2022. Credit: Ethan Genter / BDN

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Someone drove a Ford Bronco onto an MDI mud flat over the weekend where it was stuck for days, getting flooded by the tides and attracting a crowd to watch.

The 2021 Ford Bronco was driven onto the land bridge to Bar Island and then off to the flats for several hundred feet on Saturday before getting stuck, members of the salvage crew said Monday afternoon. It was finally dragged free Monday evening.

It’s not uncommon for cars to drive onto the land bridge, but to have it still stuck there two days later is rare.

Also uncommon is the vehicle itself: the sought-after 2021 Ford Bronco. It’s the first model year that Ford has offered the SUV since the 1990s, and its popularity led to long wait lists for both the 2021 and the 2022 model years. Used 2021 Ford Broncos are also in high demand. 

Initial attempts to drag the SUV out from the mudflats were unsuccessful, so the towing company had to take a more dramatic approach: sending a salvage team to use airbags to float the underwater vehicle to the more solid land bridge that connects Bar Island to Bar Harbor, said Les Foss, the owner of Island Towing.

The strategy worked. Foss’s team was able to pull the SUV out across the land bridge with a flatbed truck at low tide late Monday afternoon — when it was no longer submerged in the salt water.

A small crowd amassed early Monday to watch the recovery. One man set up speakers to pump out tunes creating a party-like atmosphere, but that was eventually shut down by cops who said the loud music violated the town’s ordinance on amplified music. 

The ordeal began Saturday evening. The driver, New Jersey resident Jason Stonge, called Bar Harbor police on Saturday at 5:42 p.m. and said the vehicle was stuck and that they couldn’t get out with the rising tide, said Bar Harbor police.

The path leading from the Bar Harbor waterfront to the small island is exposed at low tide and is popular with walkers and tourists. But at high tide, it is submerged. 

Signs at the land bridge warn hikers who are looking to go out to the island and traverse its short trail to plan their trip carefully. If timed wrong, hikers can get stranded on the island for nine hours while waiting for the tide to go back down enough to pass across again.

Vehicles regularly are driven out at low tide onto the path, including local kayak tour company vans that pick up groups after a day of paddling in the bay. 

“It’s a fairly common thing for us [for vehicles to get stuck],” Bar Harbor police Sgt. Doug Brundrett said. “It just gets really muddy.”

Someone driving that far out into the mudflats is much more rare, though and recovery efforts usually don’t require this much time and effort, he said.

Foss, who also towed the car that went into the water after doing donuts in Seal Harbor, retold other stories of other vehicles getting stuck and didn’t recommend straying very far from the more solid land bridge.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection was notified of the incident and a representative was monitoring the recovery.

Brundrett said there were no injuries in the incident and there were no plans for any criminal charges or citations.