“It was a complete string of flukes,” Max Werenka's mother Nancy tells PEOPLE. “It was like it was meant to happen. It just all aligned”

By Christine Pelisek
September 09, 2019 05:02 PM
Max Werenka

A Canadian teen who found a car in a British Columbia lake last month has helped solve the mysterious disappearance of a woman who vanished without a trace 27 years ago.

The woman, Janet Farris, was driving to a wedding in Alberta in the fall of 1992 when she vanished along the Trans-Canada Highway. Her family had no idea what happened to her for decades until a curious Max Werenka, 13, decided to check on what a guest at his parent’s rental cabins had told him was a “shiny” object in the lake.

“It was a complete string of flukes,” Max’s mother Nancy tells PEOPLE. “It was like it was meant to happen. It just all aligned.”

Nancy says the case unfolded Aug. 20 when guests at their resort on Griffin Lake near Revelstoke, British Columbia, told Max they had spotted something shiny at the bottom of the lake about 10 feet from shore.

Max and the guest used paddle boards to get a closer look. Max saw what he believed was the outline of a car, upside down, 20 feet below.

“It wasn’t easy to see,” says Nancy. “The sun had to be hitting it just right.”

Griffin Lake
Revelstoke RCMP

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Once they returned, the guests that first spotted the object did an online search. They learned that a minivan with four passengers had plunged into the lake in 2009 and its occupants were rescued.

The following day, Nancy says, her son told new guests about finding the car and how it was probably left behind from the 2009 rescue.

“This second set of guests, as a complete fluke, had a relative come out for a picnic lunch and that relative turned out to be a [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] officer from Revelstoke,” she says. “My boy and I were telling this officer, ‘I can’t believe there is a car in the lake, why didn’t they remove it?’ He said, ‘What are you talking about? That vehicle was removed.”

On August 21, two officers came to the lake to investigate, but they couldn’t see the submerged car.

“…My boy has a GoPro camera and he said, ‘I will dive in and show you.’ He went underwater and video-taped where the vehicle was and came up and showed the [officers].”

Police then sent a dive team, tow truck and boom, pulling the black 1986 Honda Accord from the lake bottom on Aug. 24.

Farris, 70, was discovered inside.

Police found her identification inside the vehicle and were told by her family members that her last known stop was at a gas station in Salmon Arm.

“That’s approximately 40 minutes from us,” says Nancy. “That was the last trace of her. Other than that they didn’t know where she was, from there to Alberta.”

According to CBC, Farris’ family had searched for her for decades but over time came to the conclusion that she had died somewhere along the long route.

“I think the worst thing was not knowing,” her son, George Farris, 62, told CBC. “We kind of assumed that maybe she had gone off the road or fallen asleep, or tried to avoid an accident or animal on the road.”

Nancy says the experience has been unexpected and hopes Farris’ family will be able to find closure.

“I am just sad for the family,” she says. “They are happy and relieved knowing what happened. I can’t fathom what they must have been going through for 27 years not knowing where a loved one is. This is giving them closure I hear. I pray for them and am sad for what they went through.”