It’s not every day that a routine test cracks a cold case involving missing people and cars, let alone two. However, in a bit of weird car news, that’s precisely what happened on Sept. 2013, when a mundane equipment test uncovered two Chevrolets at the bottom of an Oklahoma lake, with three bodies in each. That discovery recently helped close cases that first opened in 1969 and 1970, respectively.
The missing 1952 Chevrolet and 1969 Camaro
In 1969, a missing person case was opened regarding the sudden disappearance of Nora Marie Duncan, 58, Cleburn Hammack, 42, and John Alva Porter, 69. Porter owned a Chevrolet, and according to his granddaughter, who spoke with Oklahoma’s News 4, Porter’s family quickly ruled out her grandfather abandoning their family, given that his money remained untouched in the bank.
The following year, CNN reported, a second case was opened in the case of Leah Johnson. 18, Thomas Rios, 18, and Jimmy Allen Williams, 16. Williams owned a Chevy Camaro, which he had bought less than a week before their disappearance. The day they disappeared, the three had planned to attend a football game in the evening.
For more than 40 years, there were no leads on either case. Then, one day, according to CNN, Elk City Sheriff’s deputies happened to be testing new sonar equipment and discovered both Williams’ Camaro and Porter’s Chevrolet at the bottom of Foss Lake. The remains of six bodies were found inside.
Given the circumstances, it took over a year before the remains could be positively I.D.’ed. However, when the medical examiner finished assessing the remains, they were able to positively I.D. all six missing persons.
The two Chevrolets found in Foss Lake
It’s a tragedy that both cars ended up in the lake, but in the case of the Chevrolet Camaro, it’s not hard to surmise why it was full when it landed there. The 1969 Camaro was a slickly-manufactured muscle car that was all the rage at the time. In fact, Camaros from that decade are now iconic, and it would be hard to find one in good condition for less than six figures. Used or not, Williams probably had the time of his life in that blue 1969 Camaro. Additionally, the 1952 Chevrolet would have been nothing to sneeze at either. That model of Chevrolet is highly prized today and would fetch a pretty penny at an auction.
Unfortunately, while the exact reasons for both cars landing in Foss Lake may never be known, some details have emerged that may have caused or contributed to the untimely demise of their passengers.
What may have led to these tragedies
According to John Alva Porter’s grandson, he recalls his grandfather having to push his Chevrolet to get it started. Indeed, according to an account in the local paper, Porter needed to push the car to get it started to make the trip the day he disappeared.
Cars with manual transmissions are more likely to be push-started when standard starting efforts with an ignition fail. However, if a vehicle needs to be push-started, there may be problems with its battery, starter motor, or ignition switch. A blown ignition fuse may also be the problem. Additionally, if Porter repeatedly needed to start his car with a push, he probably needed to take it to a mechanic before that fateful ride.
The 1969 Chevy Camaro isn’t known for significant mechanical issues. However, Williams didn’t attend the football game that evening. Instead, he and his friends headed to go hunting. Two corroded rifles were also found in the back of the car. Unfortunately, that detour was likely the difference between life and death.