One would think that a car crash would be a pretty open and shut case. The car crashes, and the person is either dead or standing around waiting for help. Incidents like these don’t seem to immediately lend themselves to the realm of unsolved mysteries, and they seem like they would be pretty easy to get to the bottom of. Yet, there have been many mysterious car crashes that have proven to be more than that. Here we have vehicles that have crashed and been proven to spin cryptic mysteries of vanishings and deaths that have yet to be solved.
A very recent case is the mysterious disappearance of 21-year-old Texas State University student Jason Landry. On December 13, 2020, Landry was driving to his home in a suburb of Dallas in order to see his family for Christmas, but he never arrived. When his worried family contacted authorities, they were able to locate his car crashed and abandoned after hitting a tree and barbed wire fencing on the isolated Salt Flat Road in Luling, Texas, about 30 minutes away from his school in San Marcos and 140 miles west of Houston. There was no sign of the missing man, and the car was found to have the interior lights on, the keys in the ignition, the front passenger side door locked, and his wallet and cell phone were also still in the vehicle. Nearby was found Landry’s backpack, which contained toiletries, a baseball cap, laptop computer, a small amount of marijuana, and oddly a dead beta fish in a tumbler. Police speculated that the crash had occurred when Landry had overcompensated on the gravel covered road and spun out of control, possibly to avoid another vehicle or a deer. However, what happened to Jason Landry was unknown. Also unknown is why he was up on lonely Slat Flat road to begin with, since it was an isolated stretch lying far off of his planned route.
Strangely, when Landry’s father went to the scene the following day, he found some of his son’s belongings strewn about in the woods 900 feet away from where the car had been crashed. Among these were a shirt, shorts, socks, underwear, slide sandals and a watch, although why these were removed and left there is a mystery, especially as it would have been quite cold at the time, estimated as having been between 36 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Investigators also found a very small amount of blood on one of the articles of clothing, thought to be from a minor injury, possibly incurred from running through the barbwire. No blood was found in the car itself. It is a bit strange that the police had not found these articles on their first sweep of the area, making it all the more mysterious, but they were soon all processed along with the other evidence. In the meantime, police were piecing together Landry’s last known movements through data obtained from his cellphone, finding that he had been using a mapping application called Waze up until he crossed an intersection right after entering Luling, after which he switched to Snapchat and then rather mysteriously his digital footprints stopped altogether about 67 minutes before his car is believed to have crashed. What happened in those 67 minutes remains a mystery.
As this was going on, a massive search effort was launched in the area of the crash, utilizing tracker dogs, horse-mounted SAR Team members, drones, a helicopter, and dedicated ground search and rescue teams composed of over 100 personnel and volunteers, covering 57.2 square miles, or 36,608 acres, over several intense searches, but found very little trace of the missing man. The only promising lead was when scent dogs followed a trail from the car to a nearby pond, but when this pond was thoroughly searched by divers there was found to be no trace of Landry. Where did he go? Why was Landry on that remote road and why were his clothes removed and belongings left behind? What happened to him in that 67 minutes for which there is no data for him? Why did the dogs pick up that scent to the pond only to have it disappear? No one knows the answers to any of these questions, and Jason Landry remains missing.
Another very bizarre vanishing associated with a mysterious car crash is the case of 37-year-old Patricia Meehan. On the evening of April 20, 1989, Patricia was speeding along on the wrong side of the road on Highway 200, near the town of Circle, Montana, in the United States, when she not surprisingly was involved in a near head-on crash with another vehicle after narrowly avoiding another just before. In the wake of the horrific accident, Meehan was reported by the other driver as exiting her vehicle and looking decidedly dazed and confused, although in one piece without any noticeable injury. When the startled driver of the other vehicle approached her, Meehan reportedly just stared blankly at her, prompting the witness to later say, “She just stared. She never said anything, she just stared at me. I will never forget her.”
The driver of the car that had been narrowly missed, a Peggy Bueller, also saw the disoriented woman standing there by the side of the road watching the whole scene as if she were just a passing bystander. After several minutes of this odd behavior, the mystery woman then reportedly dazedly walked to the side of the road as if in a trance, clumsily climbing over a fence, and walking away into the night. It would be the last time she would ever be seen again. When police had the mysterious driver’s vehicle checked, they found it to be owned by a Patricia Meehan, who was discovered to have made an appointment with a psychologist scheduled for April 21st, but it is unknown if this had anything to do with her accident or subsequent vanishing.
In the days after the crash and disappearance, a large search was organized to look for any trace of the obviously distraught woman, but no sign of Patricia Meehan was ever found, and she made no attempts to call family or friends. Baffled authorities would go on to create several theories as to what may have become of her. One was that she had perhaps hitched a ride with another vehicle or even stowed away aboard a truck, but it is not known why she would have done such a thing. An eery clue found later by her family was a selfie taken by the missing woman that was found to be on her abandoned camera, but it is unknown what connection this has to the disappearance. There was also the possibility that she had incurred a form of amnesia in the accident and had then wandered off in a confused daze, which could be supported by the numerous bizarre, unconfirmed sightings of Meehan made in the years after her vanishing. Hundreds of such sightings have been made over the years, usually describing the woman as hitching rides at truck stops in places as far away as Seattle, Washington. She has also been seen at various diners and restaurants, with waitresses usually explaining that the spaced-out woman always seems to be jumpy, dazed, and in a hurry. One waitress said of one such encounter:
What stood out in my mind was that she seemed really disorientated, and really spacey. I heard her talking to herself. She sat at that table for an hour and a half more just looking out the window, watching people walk by. That’s when I walked up to her and asked her, ‘You okay?’ I was wondering if there was anything I could do, because she seemed so lost. I felt like she didn’t know where she was or who she was.
There have also been claims of actually finding the missing woman over the years, although these have proven to be false. The most dramatic of these occurred in 1990, when a strange, vagrant woman bearing a striking physical similarity to the missing Patricia Meehan was arrested and brought in in Kootenai County, Idaho for littering. The woman had no ID on her at the time, and called herself “Morning Star,” and was thought to perhaps be the missing Meehan, but this was ultimately put to rest by her family, who said it was certainly not her. Other sightings and claims have likewise remained elusive, and just what happened to Patricia Meehan after that fateful accident remains a complete mystery. She has not been seen since.
Another such vanishing victim with perhaps her own personal demons was 23-year-old Leah Roberts, of Durham, North Carolina, who disappeared under strange circumstances in March of 2000. Leah had had a tough time of things, having lost both of her parents to the scourge of death, her father to lung illness and her mother to heart disease. She had also been in a serious, life-threatening car accident in 1998, which had caused a punctured lung and a broken femur, necessitating a metal rod put into her leg. Deciding to pursue other endeavors, she eventually dropped out of school to do some soul searching, which included a planned excursion to Costa Rica that never came to fruition and other pursuits such as learning to play the guitar and photography and poetry. She also often told her friends of her plan to take a road trip out west, just as in the writings of an author she worshiped, Jack Kerouac.
On March 11, 2000, Leah failed to show up for an appointment with her friend to do some babysitting, and all attempts to reach her went unanswered. When she had still not been seen or heard from on March 13, she was declared a missing person. Leah’s room showed signs that she had been preparing for a lengthy trip of some sort, with many of her belongings and clothes missing and even her cat was gone, as well as with money with a note saying that it was for the following month’s rent, along with a promise to be back by that time, and it was thought that she had perhaps decided to go through with her plans for a road trip after all without telling anyone she was leaving. This theory was further bolstered when Leah’s records showed that she was purchasing gas and staying at motels along a westerly course on Interstate 40. Leah’s sister, Kara, became convinced that the missing woman was headed towards the Cascade Mountains, Washington, a location she had expressed much interest in before, but then shortly after a gasoline purchase at Brooks, Ortegon all activity on Leah’s various accounts ceased, and her current whereabouts became cloaked in shadow. On March 18, 2000, Leah’s wrecked Jeep Cherokee was accidentally found by some joggers in a remote forest near the Mount Baker Highway in Whatcom County, Washington, not far from the Canadian border and Desolation Peak, which was fitting since it was very near a location in one of her favorite of Jack Kerouac’s novels, The Dharma Bums.
The scene was decidedly odd in that some of the missing woman’s clothing had been strung up alongside the road tied to trees, and although the Jeep was determined to have gone careening off the road at high speed and to have tumbled before crashing, no sign of blood or the vanished woman could be found. Also, within the vehicle were found to be pillows and blankets hung up over the windows, and various belongings such as a passport, wallet, some valuables like jewelry, $2,500 in cash, a cat carrier, cat food, and her drivers license were found strewn around about the actual wreck. There was also a ticket stub for a theater performance in the nearby town of Bellington. Repeated searches of the area using tracker dogs turned up no sign of the missing woman and it was just as if she had evaporated into thin air.
A few days after the discovery of the crashed vehicle, a man called authorities to claim that he had seen a disorientated looking woman matching Leah’s description wandering aimlessly about a gas station in Everett, Washington, although it is not known if this was her or not. Some other people claimed to have seen her at a diner in Oregon, where she had supposedly said she was traveling with an unidentified man named “Barry.” Other than this, there were no other clues whatsoever as to what had happened to her, and theories swirled. The main assumption was that the vehicle had been intentionally crashed and that there had been no one actually in it when it had tumbled off the road, a theory given weight by the later discovery that the Jeep’s starter relay had been cut, yet oddly the blankets and pillows in the windows suggested that someone had used the vehicle as a temporary shelter. It didn’t make any sense, and the presence of so many valuables and so much cash detracted from any talk of robbery being the motive. This led to the idea that she had perhaps really crashed and incurred amnesia, after which she had taken shelter in her own downed vehicle and then subsequently wandered off into the unknown, but no one knew. In recent years it has been mostly suspected that Leah Roberts was the victim of foul play of some sort, or that she intentionally ran away for unspecified reasons, but all of the strange clues surrounding the vehicle and the scene of the crash have never fully added up, and no new leads have been forthcoming. Despite her case being featured on various high profile crime documentaries such as Unsolved Mysteries and Disappeared, the ultimate fate of Leah Roberts remains unknown, and it is still debated to this day.
In some cases, car crashes have led to mysterious deaths and anomalous clues. A recent case comes to us from January 13, 2015, when a woman named Amber Bentley was on her way to drop her kids off at school and noticed an abandoned car crashed against a tree well off the road on a field in Tarrant County near Fort Worth, Texas. It was odd in that the car had obviously driven off road and all the way across the field in order to smash into that tree, and Amber called the police. When authorities arrived, they saw that the air bag had been deployed but there was no sign of anyone in the car. Later that morning, a fence repairman would stumble across the bodies of a woman and a baby in a grove of trees nearby, around 200 yards from the car. The baby was still strapped in its baby seat, and the woman’s body was on top of it, and police managed to identify them as Lindsay Groce Gardner, 27, and her 13-month old baby daughter, Hailey.
There were several odd details about the scene. One was that although they had been the ones in the car, it was odd that they had been so far from the vehicle. Even stranger than this was that both bodies were completely undressed, a trail of their clothes strewn about the woods. There also didn’t seem to be any injuries on their bodies that could explain their deaths, and indeed the coroner’s office could not find a concrete cause of death at all. The best guess was that they had died of hypothermia, which is kind of weird considering they had taken off all of their clothes. It is true that in some cases, victims of hypothermia will paradoxically feel hot and take off clothes, but it still all seems very strange. Also strange is why they had even left the safety of the car in the first place. Where was Gardner trying to go with her child if it was so cold outside? Why did they even crash in the first place, and how did they manage to go way off to hit a tree on the other side of the field? It remains a mystery.
In another spooky case, the year 2009 brought a similar such unexplained case. It was at 1:37 p.m. on July 26 of that year when a woman named Diane Schuler drove her car, and her 5 young passengers, to go recklessly speeding for over 2 miles against traffic on the busy Taconic State Parkway in the U.S. state of New York. This mad dash ended in a head on collision with an SUV that would kill Schuler, 4 children on board, 3 others in the SUV, and would shock the nation. An autopsy seemed to make the whole accident appear open and shut, as Shuler was found to have alcohol and THC, the active ingredient of marijuana, in her system, but the timeline of events doesn’t seem to really fit. That morning shortly before the accident, Schuler was reported as being completely sober, and as not having had anything to drink or smoke at all. Then, just 10 minutes later Schuler was seen by the side of the road vomiting and one of the children in the car, Schuler’s niece, suddenly called her brother not long after that stating that her aunt was having trouble seeing and speaking. During this weird call Schuler herself got on and claimed that she couldn’t see or figure out where she was, to which her brother responded by telling her to stay put and wait while he came to pick her up, before the line went dead. Further attempts to call her back remained unanswered and all of this culminated in the fatal accident. The cellphone was later found to be abandoned some distance from the crash site.
The question here is that is has been ascertained that there was only a 30 minute window between Schuler being completely sober and being totally disoriented and apparently blind. Her alcohol level was stated as being equivalent to being 10 drinks, so could she have really gotten so drunk and had that much to drink that fast? Also, no one saw her drinking or smoking marijuana and even if she had why would she go completely blind and not even know where she was? Why would she not stop to wait for her brother and instead go roaring up the freeway against traffic? Why did she throw away her phone? Is there something more going on here than authorities are letting on? It is all very strange to be sure. The odd incident and its many eccentricities were the focus of a documentary called There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane.
What happened to these people? How could they go so completely vanish or otherwise leave such a trail of mysteries when their cars are right there for anyone to look at and study? What is with the recurring theme of removed clothing and does this have any relevance to what has happened? One would think that a car crash would be pretty easy to figure out, but this certainly does not seem to be the case, and these accounts serve to inspire wonder and bafflement.