The remains of an Orlando, Florida, mother who vanished nearly 12 years ago were found in a retention pond near Disney World, according to the rescue group who found her.
Sandra Lemire vanished in May 2012 after going on a date with a man she met online. The case went cold until last week when Sunshine State Sonar, a search and recovery team, received new details from the Orlando Police Department, the group said in a Facebook post.
That information led Sunshine State Sonar to a pond in Kissimmee, Florida, where the red minivan Lemire was driving had ended up following a car accident.
“Deep in my heart, I always thought this was a foul play case. And it turned out to be just a bad, terrible car accident,” Mike Sullivan with Sunshine State Sonar told NBC affiliate WESH of Orlando. “I’m just so proud of our team.”
The Orlando Police Department confirmed that the minivan was connected to Lemire’s missing person case. Florida Department of Law Enforcement is working on identifying the remains found in the van, police said Tuesday.
Lemire left her grandmother’s house in Orlando on May 8, 2012, to meet up with a man in Kissimmee whom she had been talking to on a dating app, Sunshine State Sonar said. She was driving her grandmother’s van at the time.
The rescue team said Lemire called her grandmother when she arrived in Kissimmee and promised to call again before her trip back home. But she never called.
The investigation found that Lemire was last seen in the minivan leaving a Denny’s restaurant in Kissimmee, the group said.
Sunshine State Sonar began assisting in the search in July 2022. Over the past 17 months, 63 bodies of water were searched, according to the Facebook post.
Last week, when the group received new information from police, it began mapping new search areas. On Saturday, the team got a “hit on sonar in a small retention pond at the Disney World exit,” the group said on Facebook.
“We located what appeared to be a minivan submerged in 14 feet of water,” the group said.
Sunshine State Sonar was able to confirm that the license plate on the submerged vehicle matched the one Lemire was driving on the night she vanished. Her remains and personal belongings were recovered Sunday.
Multiple agencies, including the Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol, assisted in the recovery.
In a Facebook comment, Sunshine State Sonar said that Lemire’s vehicle came off a steep embankment before entering the water. The rescue team said the water is not visible from the highway and is “set down below, making it difficult for anyone to see.”
The group said it was happy it was able to provide some closure to her family.
“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,” the group said. “Rest in peace Sandra, you are finally home.”
Lemire’s son, Timothy Lemire Jr., told WESH that the family is still trying to process that their 11-year nightmare has finally come to an end.
“It’s a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. “I’m happy she wasn’t murdered or kidnapped or anything like that because we’ve been thinking that for years.”