FOSS LAKE — The driver of a 1969 Camaro apparently downshifted into a low gear as the car went into Foss Lake decades ago, authorities said Wednesday.
The investigations continue into what caused two cars to end up in the lake in separate incidents about a year apart.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers testing new sonar equipment discovered the cars Sept. 17 in 12 feet of water about 50 feet from where a boat ramp extends into the lake.
The 1969 Camaro and a 1952 Chevrolet each contained the remains of three people.
Authorities think the remains are tied to two missing persons' cases — three teens reported missing from Sayre in 1970 (the Camaro) and three adults reported missing out of Canute in 1969 (the Chevrolet).
Trooper George Hoyle said the post-collision investigation of the Camaro has helped piece together what happened.
“The motor is not where the motor is supposed to be, and that's something that would not have happened because of rust,” Hoyle said.
The engine was pushed out of place back into the vehicle. The Camaro also had front-end damage and damage to the undercarriage.
The damage indicates the car could have hit the water at more than 45 mph. Its low gear indicated downshifting in an effort to slow the vehicle, Hoyle said. The car entered the water and then turned to face the ramp, suggesting the driver tried to turn the car in an effort to slow it.
One question unanswered is why the three people inside didn't make an effort to get out of the car.
Hoyle said the impact of a car hitting the water about 45 mph could have thrown the occupants if they weren't wearing seat belts, possibly disorienting them or knocking them out.
Early indications are that this was an accident, Hoyle said.
He added that findings in a medical examiner's report, such as trauma to remains, could disprove that theory. A medical examiner's report and DNA match could take up to a year.
What happened to the 1952 Chevy and its occupants is more of a mystery.
Unlike the Camaro, there is no damage to the front of the car that would indicate a high-speed impact. The driver's side door was open.
“There are a lot of question marks there,” Hoyle said. “Everybody is going to bring a piece of the puzzle to the table and we'll put it all together. We'll get a pretty good conclusion based on the evidence.”