Missing Alabama man connected to bones found in Steinhatchee River during hurricane cleanup

Divers recover human remains, vehicle connected to missing Alabama resident James Toole
Divers recover human remains, vehicle connected to missing Alabama resident James Toole(WCJB)
Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 12:13 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2023 at 5:17 PM EDT
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STEINHATCHEE, Fla. (WCJB) - Efforts to clear debris from Hurricane Idalia in the Steinhatchee River may have revealed evidence in a nearly 30-year-old missing person’s case from Alabama.

Dixie County Sheriff’s Office officials say crews at the Jena boat ramp clearing debris pulled up pieces of a car and human remains out of the river on Wednesday. Dive teams were sent to search the area. They recovered several pieces of the vehicle and additional human remains.

Our sister station, WTVY reports, Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza confirmed a Chevrolet Cavalier with a 1995 Houston County license plate was pulled from the river. James Aaron Toole, 72, was driving that model car when he disappeared 28 years ago.

A credit card and Sam’s Club card bearing Toole’s name were found inside the car as well. The remains have been taken to the medical examiner’s office for identification.

Witnesses who saw the crane pulling the car from the water say a steering wheel came first, before a car seat and eventually bones.

“It was a little scary because I know how easy that is to miss going down a ramp like that,” said Savannah Cole, a resident. “With the hurricane just going I thought it was maybe something from recent, but from 1995, it was kind of shocking.”

According to reports, Toole, known to friends as Aaron, told his family he planned to visit a sick relative in Florida but never arrived. Before leaving, he worked part of his shift at a rural store along Houston County Highway 75.

About two weeks ago, Florida Department of Environmental Protection contractors began clearing the Steinhatchee River and canals in Horshoe Beach of debris from the storm.

The Steinhatchee River and canals in Horseshoe Beach are the first waterways the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will clear following Hurricane I

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