“The car was so fragile”: divers made another discovery in the channel of Lake Tarpon

A private diving team was looking for a car that belonged to a Palm Harbor woman who disappeared in 1995 when they found a Chevy Vega instead.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Florida — Crews with a private diving team and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office found themselves in a channel in Tarpon Lake Monday morning after searching for a vehicle that could be linked to a 1995 missing persons case.

The search began just two days after a private team reported the unexpected discovery.

On Facebook, Sunshine State Sonar says they were looking for a car that belonged to Brenda Starr, a Palm Harbor woman who disappeared in 1995.

Instead, they found a 1970s Chevy Vega.

“We [were] I just talked to the divemaster there and they felt inside the car and found no human remains in it, which is good, ”said Mike Sullivan. Sullivan is the founder of Sunshine State Sonar, a volunteer dive group.

“And so they tried to get him out, and we knew it would be an extremely difficult task. The car was so fragile. Most likely, she was under water for more than 30 years, and yes, it is, you know, the axle broke. And, you know, they did everything they could.”

Sunshine State Sonar has speculated that there may be a link between the year, make and model of a car found in a multi-decade Florida missing persons case involving two sisters who owned the exact same car and disappeared in 1979.

Two wheels were torn out of the canal when the crews tried to pull the car out. And, according to Sullivan, after inspection, there were no human remains inside.

When the car was initially located, a team of divers removed parts to determine its make and model.

“He tore off a piece of the steering wheel with the Chevrolet badge,” Sullivan said, referring to one of his divers. “And he ripped off a piece of plastic from eight pylons with a GM part number, we were able to match that part number on those eight pylons to an early 1970s Chevrolet Vega.”

“Sometimes these things are absolutely impossible. If these guys can’t get it out, no one can get it out.”

So far, a private team of divers has searched 12 bodies of water for a car belonging to a missing woman from Palm Harbor. While Pinellas County continues to investigate and restore Chevy, Sunshine State Sonar will continue.

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