TAMPA, Fla. - A Tampa-based family was traveling across the country when they came across what appears to be Gabby Petito’s camper van back in August. Their GoPro captured it on video – all by accident.
On August 27, the Bethune family was trying to find a spot to camp for the night when they found themselves in the Spread Creek camping area near Grand Teton National Park, where remains were found Sunday matching Gabby's description. Jenn Bethune said the van they passed by appears to be the converted camper van that Gabby and Brian Laundrie – her fiancé and person of interest in the case – were using to travel.
But it wasn’t until this past Saturday when she connected the dots. The Bethunes blog about their adventure on their Red, White and Bethune website. She was editing video from August 27 that night.
"I just needed to take a break. So, I went and got my phone and as soon as I got my phone, I got a notification that says I was tagged in a story," she told FOX 13, adding that the post called for anyone who traveled through the Grand Teton National Park to comb through their photos or video. "I ran to the computer, pulled out my footage, scrolled through it and low and behold, Gabby’s van was recorded in there."
The fact that they even had the video was a "complete accident." Jenn said her husband, Kyle, forgot to turn their GoPros off that day. Lucky for them, the cameras were recording. They use two cameras – one facing the front and the other faces Kyle while he is driving.
"We passed by their van – or a white van – and the white van had a Florida plate," Jenn recalled. "We were excited because we’re from Florida, you know, hometown Tampa Bay. So we wanted to stop and talk to them but the van was dark and it was all closed up."
Jenn said it was 12:05 a.m. Sunday when she realized they likely captured the camper van on video. By 12:08 a.m., she had called the FBI hotline.
"Relief just washed over me cause I could give this to their parents, to Gabby’s parents and say, ‘Hey, here’s the van. Go do whatever you need to do,’" she said. "I was just so happy that we got that on camera and we were able to give that to them."
The FBI had not followed up with her after she was told to upload the video to the agency's website. On Sunday, Gabby's family confirmed the FBI was aware of the video. Later that day, the FBI found remains nearby that matched Gabby's description.
The FBI on Sunday said law enforcement agencies were searching the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area "located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest on the east boundary of Grand Teton National Park."
"I just want to say that Gabby’s family is so amazing. I talked to her mom and her dad, [they're] such wonderful kind-hearted, beautiful people that I am blessed to know," Jenn said. "They are just hurting right now."
Jenn described the camping area as "desolate" and the Bethunes didn't have a strong cell phone signal
"It’s very dense, there’s a lot of bushes, there’s a lot of trees," she said. "All of the off-grid camping sites are tucked away behind different trees and bushes and stuff. You’re very separated from everybody else and kind of secluded, even thought it was very packed."
The Bethune family is made up of Jenn, Kyle and their three children. Their fourth child, Ethan, died at the age of 7 in September 2011 while they were heading to Disney World for his 7th birthday.
Via FOX News
The moment Jenn discovered the camper van in their GoPro video was on Ethan's birthday.
"He would’ve turned 17 [Sunday]," she explained, "and I fully believe that Ethan had a hand in bringing Gabby home for sure."
Now, the next step is finding Brian, Jenn added.
"I think we still need to be focused on finding Brian," she said. "Anybody that still has clues or was in that area around that time or if they’ve seen him in Florida. No clue is too small. If you think you have video footage send it in. we’ve got to get the rest of the answers for this family."
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-Call-FBI.
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