Camaro was trying to slow
The driver of a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro that lay submerged in Foss Reservoir for 42 years was trying to slow down just before the car hit the water, examiners have concluded.
“We know the motor was running when it went into the lake,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper George Hoyle. “The transmission was in first gear, which means he tried to slow down. Obviously he did not have enough time.”
Hoyle was one of two lake patrolmen who discovered the Camaro and a 1952 Chevrolet in about 12 feet of water approximately 50 feet from the end of the main boat ramp on Sept. 10. He met Wednesday with Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents, representatives of the Beckham County Sheriff’s Office, and other OHP troopers to compare notes and see what conclusions they could draw about the two cars.
“I have performed a post-collision investigation,” said Hoyle. “The information I learned is that most of the stuff with the Camaro was mechanical. I had a mechanic do a mechanical inspection, and from that we learned there was undercarriage damage which could be from impacting the water.
“We are confident the ’69 Camaro was involved in a collision, and the impact was with the water.
“The 1952 Chevy we cannot comment on at this time. We’re going to have to wait on further information from the medical examiner’s office. ”
Three sets of human skeletal remains were found in each of the cars. The ’52 Chevy is believed to have run into the lake approximately a year and a half before the ’69, as an old newspaper article indicates a missing-persons report was filed on or about April 8, 1969, for three older people believed to be in it. Its last known location before going into the lake was at Canute.
The ’69 disappeared Nov. 20, 1970. Three teenagers were believed to be in it.
Hoyle said the radiator fan, motor mount and fuel pump on the Camaro were all damaged from impact with the water. He said the driver was probably going faster than he should have been.
The windows were all up and the doors shut on that car, which did not have seatbelts. Asked about the windows, Hoyle said they were manual so they would have had to have been rolled down by hand if anyone was trying to get out through them. However, he said there is no evidence that was the case.
“It was already dark out there, and it’s a whole lot darker when you’re under water,” he said.
Hoyle also said the driver could have been disoriented or even knocked out.
The driver’s door was open on the ’52, he said, adding that he had noted that when he and Trooper Woody Perry first discovered the cars using new sonar equipment.
But mechanically, he said nothing could be determined about that car which would have contributed to it being in the lake.
“We don’t know if it rolled into the water or what,” he said. “We just don’t know.”
Hoyle said investigators would have to wait on the medical examiner’s report to see if there was any damage to the skeletal remains from the ’52 before concluding for sure that those deaths were not homicides.
“It’s all pieces of a puzzle,” he said, “and everybody is going to bring pieces. The medical examiner is making progress, and she will bring a piece to the puzzle that will help us draw a conclusion.”
Hoyle said he even looked up a weather report for the area, and it showed that Clinton – apparently the closest location to the lake for which records were available – had received .87 of an inch of rain on April 8, 1969, with winds of 17 miles per hour gusting to 60 mph.
He concluded by saying he was confident that when the investigation is complete, authorities will have a fairly accurate picture of what happened so long ago.
“The evidence in 1969 is going to be the evidence today,” he said. “Just believe what the evidence shows you. I believe we’ll come up with more than an educated guess.”