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LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – The Lexington Fire Department announced a major development in a cold case dating back more than 40 years, and its all thanks to the commitment of a Lexington firefighter.

On Wednesday, Dec. 22 the department was joined by the Fayette County Coroner to finally reveal the identity of human remains found in the Kentucky River 5 years ago.

In 2016, the department spotted vehicles on the floor of the Kentucky River using a sonar radar. So a training exercise was conducted to remove the car and turn them into the Lexington Police Department because many of them were stolen vehicles.

However, there was one vehicle found in the river that raised some alarms for Captain Christopher Warren who was participating in the dive exercise.

Captain Warren said the team found a 1967 Ford Fairlane that “was so badly decayed, rusted, there were no identifications markers on the car anywhere.”

Once the car was completely removed from the river, Captain Warren made a grisly discovery. According to Coroner Ginn, scant skeletal remains including several long bones, a foot bone and a purse were found in the Ford.

That discovery motivated Captain Warren to find out who those remains belonged to. Warren said, “I knew there had to be missing reports out there. I’ve read every single one from Kentucky and every surrounding state.”

The remains were sent to the state’s forensic lab for identification. And after being sent to several labs and tested multiple times, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn confirmed the remains belong to Martha Helmick.

According to police reports and details from Helmick’s family, Martha, her sister Flora, and family friend John Ed Keyton left Bridgewater in August of 1973 to head to a family reunion in Dabolt, Ky. But the trio never made it to their destination and was never heard from or seen again.

Their disappearance was the source of many rumors and theories back in their hometown Bridgewater. Locals and officials alike both obsessed over solving the case. Current Bridgewater Police Chief Phillip Read explained how chiefs before him prioritized the case.

Read said, “I looked back and found the chief during that time and he just went in on his own personal story of the first initial report of them missing and he said it multiple times of how many countless hours that he worked on the case.”

The trio’s disappearance is no longer a mystery and for those involved in bringing Martha home they say the hours spent searching are worth the closure her family will now have.

Captain Warren said, “That phone call that I wanted to make, finally happened, I got to call them and tell them we get to bring them home.”

Warren and Ginn have both been asked to escort Helmick’s remains to Virginia where she will be laid to rest next to her husband.

The remains of Keyton and Flora Helmick have not been discovered yet.

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