On April 3, 2000, two teens — 18-year-old Erin Foster and 17-year-old Jeremy Bechtel — left Foster’s home in her Pontiac Grand Am in Sparta, Tennessee and were never seen again. A scuba-diving YouTuber recently found that car at the bottom of the Calfkiller River along Highway 84 last week, along with what authorities believe are likely the remains of the missing teens.
White County Sheriff Steve Page shared the recent breakthrough in a release on his Facebook page. The scuba diver, a man named Jeremy Sides, runs a YouTube channel titled Exploring With Nug. Sides aims to recover lost or stolen property and, occasionally, search for missing persons in his dives. Foster’s family brought Sides’ channel to Sheriff Page’s attention, and Page advised Sides to search the area of the river along Highway 84.
Armed with new information, Sides set out for a day of searching at three locations around town. The first two turned out to be busts, but the last one proved very promising about 30 minutes into his sweep of the river.
Sides descended about 10 feet into the water, found the Pontiac badge on the car, retrieved the plate and put this 21-year-long cold case to rest. Here’s what he said in his video following the discovery:
“I’m lost, I’m lost for words. 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 they’ve been sitting there waiting for someone to find them, and I’m glad I did. I don’t know, it’s a weird mix of emotions, I can’t even explain it. But you know what — this isn’t about me, this is about getting them home.”
Sides phoned Sheriff Page, who arrived onto the scene minutes later. Speaking to NBC News, Page said that the human remains found in the car are pending analysis from forensics, but he’s pretty sure Foster and Bechtel have finally been found. He also said that divers had been in that river before looking for answers — they just weren’t in the right part of it.
“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.
At the moment, Page believes the driver simply lost control of the Grand Am and ended up in the water. Looking at Google Maps’ Street View of the stretch of road that runs along the river, it’s clear there’s not much room for error. (This isn’t precisely the area where the car may have left the road, but you get the idea.) Also, the guardrail between the asphalt and the water didn’t exist 21 years ago.
Two decades of family and friends mourning, pondering questions they probably never imagined they’d get answers to. May Erin and Jeremy rest in peace, and may their loved ones now feel some semblance of closure.