HOUSTON - The founder of Texas Equusearch said he is convinced more than 100 cars, trucks, and perhaps even a few bodies lie on the bottom of Houston bayous.
"We can possibly and probably solve some missing-persons cases, maybe even some murder cases," Tim Miller said.
Miller said in late 2011, while his Texas Equusearch teams were searching Brays, Sims and Buffalo bayous in Houston with a sonar-equipped boat, they made the surprising and accidental discovery of 127 cars, trucks and even what is believed to be an intact big rig.
At the time, the focus was to find an 83-year-old woman and the car she was driving. Lillian High's body, and the car, were discovered months later in a Southeast Houston detention pond.
Miller contends an unidentified Houston police detective in 2011 did not want to see sonar images of several sunken vehicles, or GPS coordinates of the finds, and the officer did not want Miller to share the information with anyone, he said.
"You know, it's kind of disturbing when the detective on the case said, 'Shut up. The city doesn't have the money to take them out and the community will go crazy,'" Miller said, recalling the conversation with a detective.
The Houston Police Department acknowledges a conversation took place between Miller and a member, or maybe members, of Houston's Dive Team.
"Our dive team spoke with Mr. Miller's sonar expert two years ago and looked at the images," said Victor Senties, a Houston Police Department spokesperson. "We knew about most of them and did follow up and investigated two of these vehicles. Keep in mind, most of them would break apart if you tried to get them out."
Miller advocates getting the vehicles out of the water without delay and believes his team can do it with air bladders that will lift the vehicles with minimal damage.
"The city is broke. We can do this at a fraction of the cost," Miller said.
Even at a fraction of the cost, Miller acknowledges the operation could be expensive, and the funding is not yet in place.
There are more than 2,500 miles of waterways in the Houston area. Miller's team thoroughly inspected just a portion of three bayous.
"Even if we don't find anyone on the bottom down there, we've got an environmental problem, we've got a flooding problem, and we've got a safety problem," Miller said.
Miller was scheduled to present his findings Tuesday at a Houston City Council meeting.
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