According to The Delaware County Daily TImes,
RIDLEY TOWNSHIP – A group of volunteer divers believe they have located the remains of a man who disappeared without a trace more than 18 years ago in the Ridley Township Municipal Marina at 401 S. Swarthmore Ave. Ridley Township police had not officially revealed the man’s identity as of Monday, but divers from Adventures with Purpose Underwater Dive and Recovery said in a livestreamed Facebook video that they are confident they located James “Jimmy” Amabile inside a vehicle about 24 feet under the surface of the water.
Amabile, 38, vanished on the afternoon of Dec. 4, 2003, after leaving from his home in Folsom to go pick up his two daughters from a baby sitter in his 2002 green Ford Explorer, according to Daily Times archives. He had overslept and called the baby sitter at 5:13 p.m. to say that he was running a few minutes late. The call was routed through a cellphone tower at Morton Avenue and MacDade Boulevard.
The baby sitter’s home was a short distance away, near Bullens Lane, but Amabile never arrived. Amabile’s wife at the time, Kimberly, called police and reported him missing later that night. In the intervening years, investigators chased down any and all leads, though there was not much to go on. His credit cards, bank accounts and cell phone remained unused. Though he was an insulin-dependent diabetic, no prescriptions were ever filled in his name. The Pennsylvania State Police conducted helicopter searches of the Tinicum Wildlife Refuge while investigators looked into reports of sightings and unidentified bodies found in New York and New Jersey, even going to the Poconos after a Ford Explorer was found torched there, all to no avail.
Amabile was eventually declared legally dead in court and Kimberly Amabile later remarried. Her husband said Monday that the family was declining to comment at this time and asked for their privacy to be respected. Doug Bishop, a member of Adventures with Purpose, said in a Facebook live briefing Sunday afternoon that the team arrived in Delco Saturday morning and spoke with family members.
He said one of the working theories of the case was that Amabile, having overslept and maybe rushing to get to the baby sitter’s house, had a diabetic episode that caused him to drive into a body of water. The dive team retraced Amabile’s steps, discounting a couple of waterways along the expected route because they were too shallow to have hidden a vehicle, Bishop said. The team was able to use specialized sonar equipment that did not exist when Amabile went missing to try to find a vehicle in the marina.
“It lead us, our search investigation, to Stinger’s Waterfront where we discovered a vehicle 24 feet deep underwater down Darby Creek from Stinger’s boat marina, I would say roughly 200 yards or so,” Bishop said. “Anthony (Giampetro, another team member) and I, after discovering the vehicle, dove down on the vehicle. …We did a thorough assessment of the vehicle underwater, we identified it was the vehicle we were searching for and we immediately contacted the Ridley Township Police Department.”
A release from Ridley Township police states that team divers assisted police, marina staff, the Delaware County Medical Examiner’s Office and Leedom Fire Co. in recovering human remains and a license plate from the vehicle. The release did not name Amabile, but said the plate was matched to a missing person report from December 2003. The Medical Examiner’s Office is now working to make a positive identification, the release said. Bishop and Giampetro noted the dive was treacherous, with large pieces of debris flowing by even deep underwater.
A pylon for a section of deck had also at some point been driven right through the hood of the vehicle, said Giampetro. “It was driven through the engine bay, 6 inches away from the windshield,” he said. “That thing hit engine block, so I don’t know how it went completely through.” Bishop said the machines that set such pylons are so powerful, it could have simply blown straight through the engine compartment and the crew doing the work likely would not even have been aware there was anything down there. The kind of sonar equipment Adventures with Purpose uses probably did not even exist at that time, he said.
This was the 28th case solved by the civilian dive team, which is funded by donations and merchandise sales. The crew also has a YouTube channel and podcast where they recount each of the cases in detail, and which also provide advertising money to keep the work going. “The cooperation of Ridley Township PD was critical in the success of this recovery every step of the way and we tip our hat to their professionalism and their trust in our experience to conduct this forensics recovery,” a statement posted to the team’s Facebook page said.
“At this moment we want to take a moment to express our sympathies to the entire Amabile family as they navigate this tragic outcome to a nightmare that has lasted 18 years. We are honored to be in this position to help families and it is because of you, our supporters, that this is possible.”
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