Divers enlisted by a Texas sheriff to help search a lake for the remains of a man who has been missing since 2009 recently made a different kind of eye-opening discovery, the authorities said — more than a dozen sunken vehicles.
The discovery came after a three-day search of Lake Whitney, a flood-control reservoir and popular fishing spot about halfway between Fort Worth and Waco, the Bosque County sheriff said in a Facebook post on Monday.
But the missing man, John Creech, who was last seen near his home in Meridian, Texas, still has not been accounted for by county and state investigators.
The Bosque County Sheriff’s Office reopened a missing person case in November in the disappearance of Mr. Creech, who would now be 53. As part of the cold case investigation, the Texas Rangers, the state’s elite law enforcement unit, were also enlisted.
The sheriff, Trace Hendricks, said in the Facebook post that investigators, working on a tip that Mr. Creech’s remains might be located in the lake, had discovered more than a dozen sunken vehicles during the three-day search, which began on Friday.
Sheriff Hendricks was out of the office this week because of coronavirus protocols and not immediately available to answer additional questions, an aide said on Thursday.
The sheriff had contacted Adventures With Purpose, a team of divers that got its start searching for old cars as a way of cleaning up the environment in 2019, to help with the search about two months ago, Jared Leisek, the group’s founder, said on Thursday.
Mr. Leisek, 46, declined to provide details of the car or items that they found, but shared that officials “suspect foul play.”
Using three different types of monitors on their boat, Mr. Leisek’s divers found a total of 13 vehicles: seven on the southwest side of Lake Whitney’s dam; five submerged in the reservoir at depths of 30 to 65 feet; and one on the opposite, Hill County side of the dam.
Diving into the reservoir’s murky water, the team was able to examine the seven cars on the southwest side of the dam and pull two of them out, Mr. Leisek said. The other five vehicles in Bosque County waters could not be searched because the divers didn’t have enough oxygen to reach those depths.
“The vehicles that we did dive on and locate were all 30 to 40 years or older,” he said, “The vehicle in question that we were looking for needed to be underwater for 13 years, more or less.”
Cars that have been in the water for more than three decades look like “Swiss cheese,” he explained, making it hard to examine them, let alone remove them from the water.
But the fact that the dam-adjacent cars were not at the bottom of Lake Whitney, where sediment and debris accumulate, made it easier to investigate them, he explained.
If the divers don’t find what they are looking for “on the first try,” Mr. Leisek said, they often find answers after uploading their search footage to YouTube. Viewers then “help play web-sleuth detectives with us,” Mr. Leisek added. He explained that viewers can provide more details about where to search, which he said he hoped would be the case this time.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes the Rangers, referred questions about the case to the Bosque County sheriff on Wednesday.
Mr. Creech disappeared around April 2009, according to KXXV-TV, a local ABC station. Mr. Creech’s family said he was last seen at his home just outside Meridian, a city approximately 20 miles southwest of Lake Whitney.
Mr. Creech’s car, Mr. Leisek said, was found at a Walmart in Hillsboro, Texas, shortly after he was reported missing.
There is still very little known about the events that led to Mr. Creech’s disappearance. Efforts to reach his relatives were not immediately successful.