Human remains of missing man found inside submerged car

Human remains of a man who went missing 16 years ago have been discovered in a submerged vehicle by voluntary dive teams assisting investigators in Florida. A Mitsubishi SUV was found at the bottom of a retention pond in Palm Harbor. The license plates on the vehicle matched those of Robert Helphrey, who vanished in 2006.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies towed the car out of the water, and officials confirmed the presence of human bones inside. While the remains have yet to be officially identified as Helphrey’s, the Medical Examiner’s Office is working to determine the cause of death. The case remains an open and active investigation.

Helphrey was last seen leaving a bar in Palm Harbor on May 22, 2006. He was reportedly driving to meet a friend but never arrived at his destination. The vehicle and remains were found approximately six minutes away from the pub. The bar is located across the street from the Thirsty Marlin, where Helphrey had been the general manager.

Brian St. Arnold, the owner of the restaurant and a childhood friend of Helphrey, believes that his friend took a wrong turn that night and somehow ended up in the water. He expressed amazement that nobody saw or heard anything that night, and no one came to Helphrey’s aid.

Volunteer organizations, helped the sheriff’s office locate the vehicle. The groups search national missing persons databases and gather information about missing individuals, using sonar and magnet equipment to locate submerged vehicles. They had been working on Helphrey’s case for approximately a year.

Ken Fleming of Recon Dive Recovery expressed hope that Helphrey’s family can now find closure after 16 long years. He described the bittersweet moment when a family member thanks the team for their efforts, glad for the resolution but wishing it had never been necessary.