PUNTA GORDA Fla.- Deputies from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office came to Punta Gorda to help try to find a woman who has been missing for almost two decades. They brought with them a state of the art side scan sonar to scour the bottoms of canals in Punta Gorda Isles.
The sonar takes high resolution pictures under water. The Sarasota Sheriff's office recently acquired the device via with federal grant money. What the deputies and the Punta Gorda Police Department are looking for is a 1986 Buick. Francis Hendrickson was driving it when she left her Punta Gorda home on June 30th, 1993. Detective Jim Kirdy with the Punta Gorda Police Department has been working the case for the last couple of years.
"She had a couple of errands to run, she made it to one of the appointments and vanished," said Kirdy.
He has long suspected Hendrickson is still behind the wheel of her vehicle at the bottom of one of the hundreds of canals that cut through the city.
Back in 1993, Punta Gorda Isles was a different landscape. There were over a hundred miles of canals cutting through the area and only a handful of homes. Hendrickson was known to be a bad driver and could have easily driven into one of the canals.
"The thought of her driving off the canal and not being seen or heard by anybody is entirely possible," said Kirdy.
Dive crews spent the entire day checking the areas where the sonar picked up images that could have been a vehicle. They managed to cover about 15 miles of the canals in the Isles and did not locate any vehicles. Kirdy says they will be coming back out to cover the other 85 miles or so sometime in the near future.
"If we don't see it on the side scan then she's not there, it will kind of end the mystery or if she is there, we are going to find her," said Kirdy.