Oklahoma lake bodies: Diver, trooper recount discovery

Posted at 7:32 AM, Sep 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-19 10:20:55-04

(CNN) – It wasn’t supposed to turn into a cold case mystery — or possibly solve one for that matter — when Highway Patrol Trooper George Hoyle took new sonar equipment out to an Oklahoma lake on a training mission last week.

But boy have things changed.

The discovery of two submerged cars — likely there for decades — and the six bodies inside them have folks in western Oklahoma wondering whether two old mysteries can now be put aside.

Who knew? Certainly not Hoyle, who was testing the high-tech sonar on September 10 when he saw something he didn’t expect to see at the bottom of Foss Lake — two cars.

“I noticed that they were cars with this side scan sonar,” he said. “It puts off a very good image and very detailed. I knew for a fact they were cars and they were pretty close to one another.”

Click here for the latest on the bodies from our sister station KFOR

Still authorities didn’t know what they had until Tuesday when they sent down Darrell Splawn, a diver with the highway patrol’s underwater search and recovery team.

And even then, it was tough to know anything for certain. Visibility is only about four inches at the bottom of the lake. Lots of murky muck to sift through.

“You can’t see anything,” Splawn said. “You basically just go down there and feel with your hands. It’s just a blind feel.”

Still he found a shoe, so they attached a tow cable and pulled the cars out.

“It didn’t really cross my mind as to a body being in it,” Splawn said. “It could have been a shoe, but whenever we brought them up to the shore … you could see the skeletal remains in them.”

A second search by the diver found a skull and a few other bones.

The cars turned out to be a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro and a 1952 Chevrolet, parked just 50 feet from a marina and 12 feet underwater.

The bodies? That’s another story.

Investigators say they believe the Camaro may have belonged to a teenager who disappeared with two friends in 1970, and the other car could be linked to the disappearance of a man in the 1960s who a federal official says was with a sibling and a friend, officials told CNN and its affiliates KFOR and KOCO.

Positive identification of the bodies could take years, authorities warn. They’ll try to match DNA evidence if possible.

A muddy wallet and purse could hold some clues.

While the scientists look for answers, the troopers hope they’ve provided some peace of mind.

“We are very fortunate to get to help these people and give their family closure for they have lost loved ones,” said Hoyle, who talked to the brother of one person missing for more than four decades.

“They didn’t know that they were kidnapped or how they’d become missing, but I do believe that we gave them some closure … so that they can have some resolve and serenity in their own lives.”

CNN’s Ed Lavandera, Jason Morris, Michael Martinez. Jason Morris and Phil Gast contributed to this story