The Tragic Story Behind The Viral Submerged Car On Google Maps

In 2019, a former Florida resident was doing a Google Maps search of his old home, and noticed something very odd in the water behind the house, according to a police report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. The former resident contacted the current resident to let them know what they had seen. The current resident realized what was in the water, and alerted the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office of the presence of something mysterious.

CBS reports that after taking a closer look, the current resident discovered a submerged white sedan in the water just outside his house. After the car was pulled from the water, skeletal remains were discovered inside, solving a decades-long mystery. 

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office reports that the car's exterior was "heavily calcified," since it had been in the water for so many years, and CBS reports that the submerged car, along with a man's remains, had been in the water for 22 years.

Old photo, new discovery

BBC reports that the car was discovered in August 2019. But the Google Earth photograph was actually taken years before the car's discovery — the pond photo was snapped in 2007.

"You can't determine what happened that many years ago, what transpired. All we know is that he went missing off the face of the Earth, and now he's been discovered," police spokeswoman Therese Barbera said of the case (via BBC).

The two members of the community ended up solving a decades-long missing-person case. William Moldt went missing on November 8, 1997 (via the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office). He was 40 years old when he when missing, reports CBS. How did he wind up in the water? Well, when Moldt was last seen, he had been spending an evening at a nearby nightclub. He reportedly did not appear intoxicated as he left the club.

The last person who heard from Moldt was his girlfriend, per BBC. Around 9:30 p.m., he called to tell her that he would be back home soon. Moldt left the club around 11 p.m. after having a few drinks.

Talking with neighbors

The Palm Beach Post reports that the car was discovered behind Barry Fay's house. His neighbor's ex-husband had been searching the address on Google Maps, and noticed the car sunken in the pond behind the water — in clear view on Google Maps, but less visible to the naked eye. The man snapped screenshots of what he saw, and alerted his ex-wife to what lay just behind Fay's residence. She then told her neighbor, Barry Fay, about the car on August 28, 2019. 

The neighbor's picture contained a message: "Tell me if you think that looks like a car." Barry Fay texted her back that it did appear to be a car, and asked the location. His neighbor then revealed that the scene was close to home, texting him, "Silly, that's behind your house."

The Palm Beach Post reports that when he arrived back home, Fay tried to inspect the water to see if there really was an underwater car. 

Bringing the car to the surface

Fay reportedly spent lots of time in his backyard, planting pineapples and doing landscaping projects, just feet away from the pond (via The Palm Beach Post). He had been living at the address for about 14 months, and never noticed anything amiss before, even when the pond's water levels were low.

The Palm Beach Post reports that Fay wanted to get a closer look, so he contacted someone he knew who owned a drone. They watched the drone footage show a submerged white car. Fay immediately called the police. He said police arrived that night, and roped off his entire backyard with crime scene tape. The crew worked through the night, removing all traces of the car and human remains by the next morning. They removed the entire car, a white 1994 Saturn SL, per Live Science.

Then, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, the vehicle was towed away. The car and human remains were examined at the Medical Examiner's office in order to determine who the vehicle belonged to.

Who was the driver?

Today, a barrier would effectively block any car that tried to drive into the Grand Isles pond (via The Palm Beach Post). But in 1997, when Moldt crashed, there was no development there. It was still being constructed. In 1998, the first homes in the development were built. BBC reports that police suspect Moldt was driving through Moon Bay Circle when he lost control of his car, causing him to drive into the pond. According to Crimebeat,the body of water was built as an artificial retention pond, intended to store excess water from heavy rainstorms.

So who was William Moldt? Crimebeat reports that he was a mortgage broker who tended to live a private life and often traveled for his job. The night he went missing, he spent time at a nightclub in Lantana.

All That's Interesting reports that another Florida resident, Lori Martin, told WPTV, "It was very shocking to all of us. I'm glad that they did find him... and may he rest in peace."

Not the only submerged car

The story of the submerged car in Florida went viral on Twitter in 2019, and quickly gained traction on numerous mainstream media sites.

Moldt wasn't the first person whose submerged car can be seen on Google Maps, either (via CBA). In November 2015, a man who was decorating a Christmas tree noticed a car containing human remains submerged in a Wyoming pond. It was later discovered that this car could be seen on Google Maps too. Using dental records, police identified Davie Niles, a 72 year old who had been missing since 2006. 

Per ZMOnline, Brian Houseman, who discovered the remains, said, "All of a sudden, it's like, 'Whoa, there's a car out there.' No one could ever see it. It was murky and things moved around." The car was removed from the water, where Niles' remains were discovered in the driver's seat. It was undetermined if Niles, who had been diagnosed with cancer, had died accidentally or by suicide. For Niles' family, his discovery provided them with closure about his death.