A scuba diving YouTuber may have cracked the cold case of two Tennessee teens who disappeared 21 years ago after discovering the car they were last seen in at the bottom of a local river.
Erin Foster, 18, and Jeremy Bechtel, 17, vanished on April 3, 2000, after leaving Foster’s home, according to the White County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Steve Page said in a news release members of Foster’s family alerted him on Nov. 28 about YouTuber Jeremy Beau Sides, who uses sonar technology and scuba dives to try to solve missing persons cases on his channel Exploring With Nug.
He went to Sparta, Tennessee, last month to search for the car the teens were last seen in.
Page contacted Sides and told him to search around Highway 84 in the Calfkiller River, in the area where the pair went missing, the release said.
On Nov. 30, Sides searched in that area and discovered a vehicle: Foster’s rusted Pontiac Grand Am submerged in the river.
Page and investigators arrived on the scene and said the vehicle matched that of Foster, the sheriff said in a news release.
Human remains were found in the vehicle and will be sent for genetic DNA testing and potential comparisons with dental records, investigators told CBS affiliate WTVF in Nashville. The families of Foster and Bechtel were notified of the discovery.
“I’m lost for words,” Sides said in his YouTube video. “I’m so glad I could find them. I’m so sad that that’s where they ended up. I can’t believe — it’s been over 20 years that they’ve been sitting there waiting for someone to find them.”
“I give Jeremy the credit for finding that car. All I did was kind of point him in the right direction, and he got in the water and found them,” Page told NBC News. “It’s so good to be able to bring closure to these families.”
Page said a search of the river will continue Thursday with divers coming in from other counties to help.
“We’re not sure yet that we have the correct teenagers, but we believe it is,” he told NBC News, noting the remains are pending medical examiner identification.
Page said it initially appears that the teenagers ended up in the water by accident, but the investigation is ongoing.
Divers had searched those waters before, according to Page. “They were probably less than an eighth of a mile from where the car was found. They just never got anywhere around the car,” he said.
He noted there are guardrails up now around the river, but there weren’t any in 2000.