Remains of mother who vanished in 2012 found in pond near Disney World, family says

A missing woman’s remains were finally found in Florida over the weekend, almost 12 years after she disappeared while driving home from a date near Disney World, according to her family.

Sandra Lemire’s body was inside of a minivan that sunk 14 feet in a retention pond off the side of an interstate highway, said Sunshine State Sonar, the crew that helped officials find her remains, in a Facebook post. Sunshine State Sonar is a volunteer search and recovery team based in Florida that specializes in sonar and underwater technology. 

Mike Sullivan, with Sunshine State Sonar, told CBS affiliate WKMG that the recovery team was able to find Lemire using technology that was not available when she went missing in 2012.

“Back then law enforcement would send divers in the water with zero visibility just swimming around and hoping to bump into a vehicle,” Sullivan said. Lemire’s son, Tim Lemire, Jr., told the station that Sullivan sent him a picture of the minivan license plate after they found the car, which “really hit home.”

⚠️ BREAKING NEWS! After nearly 12 years, we have found missing Orlando mother, Sandra Lemire.

We located her vehicle…

Posted by Sunshine State Sonar on Sunday, December 31, 2023

“That kind of finalized everything for me,” said Lemire, Jr. He thanked Sunshine State Sonar in a post shared Sunday morning to his personal Facebook page, and said it seemed like his mother had been driving too fast over the exit ramp “and went straight into the water.”

Lemire, a mother from Orlando, was last seen alive on May 8, 2012. A missing person bulletin issued several years ago by the Orlando Police Department noted that Lemire had left a Denny’s restaurant in Kissimmee, a city just south of Orlando, in the minivan before she and the car seemingly vanished. Officials say Lemire had borrowed her grandmother’s red 2004 Ford Freestar to meet a man who she had been communicating with through an internet dating service. She called the grandmother to confirm her arrival in Kissimmee but did not call again, as she had promised, during the drive back home.

Sunshine State Sonar worked with Orlando police detectives to search a total of 63 bodies of water over the last 17 months, starting with an initial search in July 2022, the volunteer team said. Information shared over the weekend by detectives about Lemire’s case prompted one volunteer to begin mapping new potential search locations, which included some highways. The team’s sonar technology flagged a retention pond along the I-4 highway in Kissimmee, near the exit for Disney World, and discovered Lemire’s remains with the van on Sunday.

“We located what appeared to be a minivan submerged in 14 feet of water. Our team quickly suited up and dove on the vehicle to make the license plate confirmation,” Sunshine State Sonar wrote on Facebook. “Our hearts go out to her family who supported us along the way we are saddened at the circumstances, but glad we could assist in bringing her home. Rest in peace Sandra, you are finally home.”

The team called the recovery “extremely challenging,” and said a number of agencies in addition to Orlando Police were involved in the effort, including the Florida Highway Patrol and two county sheriff’s offices.

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