Volunteer dive teams helping Florida police found the body of a man who had been missing for 16 years inside a submerged car.
Sonar search and recovery teams found Robert Helphrey’s SUV at the bottom of a retention pond in Palm Harbor on Thursday night. The SUV’s license plates matched those of Helphrey, who went missing in 2006.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office towed the car out of the water on Friday.
Inside, officials confirmed that human bones were found, but they haven’t decided yet if the bones belong to Helphrey.
The Medical Examiner’s Office is looking into the death to find out what caused it.
The sheriff’s office says that the case is being looked into right now.
Helphrey was last seen leaving Peggy O’Neill’s Bar in Palm Harbor around midnight on May 22, 2006.
The police say he was driving to meet a friend but never showed up.
The news source said that the body and the car were found about six minutes away from the pub.
Across the street is The Thirsty Marlin, where Helphrey used to work as a general manager.
A childhood friend of Helphry’s who owns the restaurant says that he worked the night he went missing.
Fox 13 reported that St. Arnold hopes the find puts an end to any rumors that his friend is missing.
He believes Helphrey went in the wrong direction that night and ended up in the water.
“It’s crazy that nobody saw him that night.” Nothing could be heard. “He didn’t yell for help,” he told the news source.
A member of the Sunshine State Sonar team called St. Arnold early Friday morning.
“There are a lot of mysteries over the years.” “Did you hear what happened to Bob?” A lot of people have asked. “Did someone find…” This guy came to us about a year ago and said he was going to use sonar to try to find Bob. He did an interview with us and then called me a few days later to say, “I will find him.” Please give me some time. “He did,” St. Arnold said.
The sheriff’s office got help from Sunshine State Sonar and Recon Dive Recovery to find the car. Volunteer groups search through national databases of missing persons for any clues about people who are still missing.
“We start by looking at the person’s work address, home address, where they like to hang out in their free time, and the last time their cell phone rang,” Ken Fleming of Recon Dive Recovery said.
After that, they use sonar and magnets to help them find vehicles underwater. Fleming says that the team found the body of a missing teacher in a car in Port Orange just last week.
Helphrey’s case had been worked on by the groups for about a year, Fleming said. They said they were able to identify Helphrey’s car even though it was dark.
Now that 16 years have passed, Fleming said he hopes his family can find peace.
“When a family member comes up to you and gives you a hug, it’s sad because they’re glad you’re there.” “They wish you weren’t there,” Fleming said.