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Boy with GoPro camera solves 27-year-old B.C. cold case
Thirteen-year-old Max Werenka has always been curious.
So it was almost second nature to look a little bit closer when he spotted something under the surface of B.C.’s Griffin Lake that he says just didn’t fit.
“I always like to question things,” Werenka told CTV News from his hometown of Sherwood Park, Alberta, as his mother Nancy looked on.
It looked like it was an overturned car, resting 15 feet into the depths, and just 10 feet off the side of the TransCanada Highway, but no one could be sure.
“We didn’t think at the time there was much to it,” said Nancy Werenka.
When Mounties from Revelstoke arrived a few days later on Aug. 21, Max, whose family owns cabins along the lake, became their guide.
“We took them out in our boat, showed them the area where it was,” Max recalled.
And then, Max dove in.
The video, recorded on his GoPro in its sturdy waterproof case, confirmed it was a vehicle.
Overturned, covered with a layer of muck, sitting on the lake bed, alongside plants and fish.
Three days later, the RCMP returned with their dive team.
“When we initially heard someone was in that vehicle, my heart just sank,” Nancy Werenka said.
And police were both shocked and intrigued.
“They were able to dive down, obtain a license plate,” said Cpl. Thomas Blakney. “It came back to a missing person case back in 1992.”
And with the plate, came a name: 69-year-old Janet Farris from Vancouver Island. Farris had been driving solo to Alberta that autumn, 27 years ago, 14 years before Max Werenka was born.
“I couldn’t imagine for that many years, not understanding what happened to a love one,” Max said.
Janet Farris’ son George said “good memories” are what got him through the decades.
“After the first year, you just carry on,” he said. “You come to live with it.”
And with the discovery, Farris says he and his family finally have closure, the “end of the story.”
Mounties say they don’t believe Farris’ death was suspicious.
They raised her 1980s black Honda back up to the highway she once drove on, and plan to inspect it to see if it hides any clues about what went wrong.
Meanwhile, they’re praising Max for his “outstanding” detective work, for cracking a cold case many thought would never be solved.
“The RCMP will probably be looking at this guy down the road for potential employment,” Blakney said, trying not to smile.
“If [it] was something that could have helped anyone, why not try,” Max said.