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Missing teacher’s car found submerged with a body inside

Robert Heikka went missing in October 2020. (Image of his car via Volusia Sheriff's Office; image of Heikka via Port Orange Police Department)

Robert Heikka went missing in October 2020. (Image of his car via Volusia Sheriff’s Office; image of Heikka via Port Orange Police Department)

Deputies in Volusia County, Florida, announced that they discovered a missing teacher’s car with a body inside, and though they said positive identification was not made, their police counterparts describe this discovery as “some much needed closure” for the man’s family.

A missing person’s notice said that Robert Heikka went missing from Port Orange at the age of 70 on Oct. 25, 2020. He had been leaving his home in his white 2020 Chevrolet Impala. His phone was last pinged to the area of Interstate 4 and State Road 44.

Images from the underwater search (Volusia Sheriff’s Office)

The Volusia Sheriff’s Office said on Saturday that Heikka’s car was found in a canal along Pioneer Trail. The water level had “recently dropped significantly,” they said.

“The car has been removed from the water, with 1 deceased occupant discovered inside,” they wrote. The Port Orange Police Department was in contact with Heikka’s family, they said.

Law enforcement thanked the Sunshine State Sonar Search Team and Recon Dive Recovery in finding the vehicle.

Photo underwater of the car and license plate (Volusia Sheriff’s Office)

“Through hard work and dedication by the many involved, his vehicle was located,” cops wrote. “Volusia Sheriff’s Office responded with resources and assisted greatly in the recovery after the vehicle was discovered. We thank all involved for bringing some much needed closure to Mr. Heikka’s family. Thank you all. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family.”

The Sunshine State Sonar Search Team described Heikka as a middle school teacher, who worked for Volusia County schools since 1989. He had been teaching at Creekside Middle School since 2002.

“When the beloved teacher and colleague was a no-show on Oct. 26, staff went to Heikka’s home in the Waters Edge subdivision where he lived alone,” the organization wrote. “There was no answer at his home, so they went to police.”

The car was found submerged in water (Volusia Sheriff’s Office)

Sunshine State Sonar said that they and Recon Dive Recovery reached out to Port Orange detectives on the two-year anniversary of his disappearance. A ground and sonar search of more than 70 bodies of water between his home and Orlando turned up nothing, so they returned to the area of his final cell phone ping.

“This particular area was searched heavily by multiple sonar teams with no luck,” they wrote. “During a ground search conducted in November of 2022, we walked on Pioneer Trail and came across a small canal in the woods. This tiny body of water was setback 75 feet from the road and was covered by trees and brush. At the time of the search, we had no sonar equipment and the canal looked extremely unlikely considering the size of it. We returned to this body of water, five months later for a second look. The water levels had dropped 50% in this area since our last search. Using a special piece of sonar equipment, we checked the depths of this tiny canal. Realizing the canal was only 4 feet deep we made a visual inspection from end to end. That is when we discovered Robert’s vehicle at the far end sitting upright with the roof partially exposed.”

They wrote that Heikka lost control of his car on the night of Oct. 25, 2020, crashing through 75 feet of trees and brush before ending up in the canal.

The Port Orange Police Department did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for more information.

“We would like to express our sincere condolences to Robert’s friends and family,” they wrote. “This is an extremely sad case with such a tragic ending.”

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