Local scuba diving YouTubers search for missing people, their cars to help solve cold cases

ATLANTA — You might call them scuba sleuths. They are YouTubers who dive rivers, lakes and ponds to try to find missing cars and missing people — in some cases people who have been missing for years.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan went out with an area scuba sleuth who is helping police solve cold cases.

“This is the last spot, the last spot where I know where to hunt. If there’s a car here, there’s going to be no problem finding it,” Jeremy Sides said in one of his YouTube videos.

Sides is a military veteran and former tire repair shop owner from Acworth who now makes a living posting videos on his YouTube channel, “Exploring with Nug.”

His specialty is working missing person cold cases in cold places and murky waters.


“We just started off just treasure hunting, looking to see what we can find, stolen property, and it evolved into cars and then missing persons,” Sides said.

A few months ago, Sides learned of two teenagers from Sparta, Tennessee, missing for more than 20 years. They and their car, an old Pontiac, vanished after they left a party. A massive search by authorities went nowhere.

Sides said cars don’t just disappear. He told Regan that nine times out of 10 they are underwater.

“The technology I have now, they didn’t have around 15, 20 years ago, so they didn’t have a way to thoroughly search those waterways,” Sides said.

In December, he put his high-tech sonar to work, and while scanning the bottom of a roadside river, he discovered a car. He dove in to get a closer look.

“All the windows are up,” said Sides in a video.

It showed him wiping off the Pontiac name plate.

“It’s a Pontiac,” said Sides.


Then he looked at the license plate. “473-AJR, it’s them!” Sides said.

“It looks like they went around the corner, lost control and went into the river,” Sides said. “I’m at a loss for words, so glad I could find them. I’m so sad that’s where they ended up.”

Sides and his fellow YouTube scuba divers are searching for Don Hightower.

The 60-year-old retiree and his car disappeared after he left a relative’s house in Adrian, Georgia, in October 2021.

“You really don’t understand what it’s like to have a loved one missing until you have a loved one missing. You think you know, but you don’t really know,” said Scott Hightower, the missing man’s son. “Obviously I hope he’s not in a pond or a creek, you know. But the fact of the matter is we don’t know.”

“He was driving a mile down the road to his residence, and there’s a couple of lakes that actually are on the sides of these roads. So we’re going to go out with the sonar to see if we can actually find this car,” said Britain Lockhart, who often dives with Sides and has his own YouTube channel called “Depths of History.”

The team jumped with confidence after spotting tire tracks trailing off into a pond. But a sonar search revealed nothing below.

“I don’t think the tire tracks are his,” Sides said.

While searching for a missing car, they will sometimes stumble upon other items that weren’t supposed to be found.

“We find a lot of guns and criminal evidence. We found, like, stolen safes. I mean, collectively we found over 100 guns and turn those into the police and potentially solve crimes,” said Adam Brown, who has a YouTube channel called “Adam Brown Adventures.”

After finding the car of the Tennessee teens who had been missing for two decades, Sides got a hug from the sheriff.

“This is amazing. We have been looking for these kids forever,” White County Sheriff Steve Page said on video.

For Sides, cracking a cold case is gratifying but comes with mixed emotions.

“It felt like, you know, the family still had hope that their kids are just out living life, running on a beach somewhere. And then now they’re about to get word their child is in fact dead. I was just appreciative that I got to help out, you know, bring closure to so many people in that town,” Sides said.

Sides and his colleagues did not find Don Hightower or his car.

The scuba sleuths don’t charge for their services. They make money off their YouTube channels and receive donations from viewers.