When a drone enthusiast set out to capture the Palm Bay scenery from above, little did he know that he was about to be plunged into a twelve-year-old missing person case. Dan Osterhout had flown his drone above the Bayside Lakes neighborhood in Palm Bay, central Florida, many times before. However, within his drone’s destined route on Thursday 27th May, unusually dry weather had triggered a unique set of circumstances that would yield unexpected results in the drone flight.
The water level of a nearby retention pond was lower than ever, and the water was particularly clear. As Osterhout examined his captured footage of the depths below, he realized that he could see a vehicle submerged in the water, and he quickly reported it to the authorities. The silver 2002 Ford Mustang in question was connected to a 2009 missing person case that had long gone cold.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Philippe Desir
Philippe Desir vanished from Palm Bay on February 7th, 2009, just around the corner from the pond in question. In a disappearance shrouded in mystery, Police Lieutenant Chris Imel shared that “his wife reported him missing during the middle of the night.” He reported that Desir’s wife had said that “he just got up and left the house and that was pretty much the end of it.” The missing man was 38 years old at the time when he vanished, and would be 50 years old today.
The Missing Endangered Persons Alert issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement described Desir as an African-American male, last seen wearing a red shirt and blue jeans. With no indication of suspicious circumstances and no trail to follow, the case of Desir’s disappearance soon went cold. Fast forward to 2021, following Osterhout’s discovery, it was Desir’s distinctive 2002 silver Ford Mustang that would signal the connection between the 2009 case and the tragic discovery of human remains within the Palm Bay pond.
Arrival of the Underwater Recovery Team
Upon investigation, members of the Palm Bay Police Underwater Recovery Team were able to locate the metallic two-door Mustang seen by the drone that would later be confirmed as registered to Desir. The car was found upside-down, with the windows rolled down. Its tires were reportedly mangled, and the windshield damaged, leading to speculation as to how the vehicle may have arrived in its submerged state.
After the recovery team slowly pulled the sediment-filled vehicle from the water, investigators confirmed that skeletal remains were found within it—including an intact skull. While it may seem logical to conclude that the remains are that of Philippe Desir, absolute certainty will remain out of reach until the medical examiner’s investigation is finalized.
Possible Closure on A Long-Unsolved Case
Speaking to Florida Today about the Philippe Desir missing person case, Police Lieutenant Jeff Spears of the Palm Bay Police Department explained, “this was a cold case. But it’s one of those situations where we do what we do. We always follow up on missing person cases every year to validate that the person is still missing.”
Following these most recent developments, Lieutenant Imel is reported to have added, “at this point, there does not appear to be any indication of foul play, but yet again it is still under investigation. As far as suicide goes, that is something else that is under investigation.”
There has been no media mention of Desir’s friends and family over the course of recent coverage but, whenever a person’s disappearance remains unexplained, there is likely to be those who carry the burden of not knowing what happened to their loved one. While it is true that the sad loss of a life—far too young—has been revealed under the strangest of circumstances, there may be some small comfort to find in answers to those questions that remained unresolved for so many years.