(TMX) – More than two years after a Florida middle school teacher went missing, his car was found submerged in a canal and a body was found inside, officials said.
Robert Heikka was 70 years old when he was reported missing on Oct. 26, 2020, after he didn’t show up for work at Creekside Middle School in Port Orange. According to police, Heikka was last seen the day before, driving his white 2012 Chevrolet Impala, and his cell phone last pinged in the area of Interstate 4 and State Road 44 near New Smyrna Beach.
An extensive search was conducted at the time, and nothing was found. On the two-year anniversary of Heikka’s disappearance, the nonprofit Sunshine State Sonar Search Team and Recon Dive Recovery contacted Port Orange Police detectives and asked to help search again.
“Over the next 7 months, we conducted a 30 mile long ground search and sonar searched over 70+ bodies of water between Orlando and his home in Port Orange,” Sunshine State Sonar Search Team wrote on Facebook.
They found nothing, and returned to the site of Heikka’s last cell phone ping along Pioneer Trail. A search of the area in November 2022 revealed a small canal, about 75 feet from the road, surrounded by trees and brush. It had seemed an unlikely place, but upon return, the canal’s water level had dropped by half, revealing Heikka’s partially exposed vehicle.
It is believed Heikka lost control on a sharp corner, and crashed through the trees and into the canal.
Photos shared by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office show the VSO dive team retrieving the vehicle from the canal over the weekend. The sheriff’s office said one deceased occupant was found inside the car.
“While positive ID has not officially been made, the Port Orange Police Department has been in contact with Mr. Heikka’s family,” the sheriff’s office said. “Our thoughts go out to the Heikka family and friends.”