The Missing: Juan Pedro Martinez

          This month’s missing persons case will be a relatively short one, because there aren’t many credible sources online that detail anything beyond the bare bones of the case. We’re headed to Spain to examine the strange accident that led up to the disappearance of Juan Pedro Martínez. Let’s explore.

(A photo of Juan Pedro taken shortly before his disappearance.
via El Español)

The Disappearance

          Juan Pedro Martínez was ten years old in 1986. He was a spirited young boy with black hair and dark brown eyes. He stood around 5’4 and weighed around 140 lbs. His father was named Andrés  Martínez and his mother was named Carmen Gómez. He had accompanied his father on short rides in the past, but was keen to go to the Basque area of Spain after reading about it in school. Juan Pedro’s father promised to take him on his next delivery to the region if Juan Pedro made good grades. Juan Pedro held up his end of the bargain.
          On June 25, 1986, a delivery to the Basque region came up – Andrés  was tasked with transporting 20,000 liters of sulfuric acid from Cartagena to Bilbao. He, Carmen, and Juan Pedro all hopped in the truck, ready to make the long journey together. The drive would take over eight hours, cover over 800 km (roughly 515 miles), and take the family though steep, narrow mountain passes. As the family reached the Somosierra Mountain pass, something was off.
        None of us will ever know what was happening in the truck cab that day, and many of the factors involved are still shrouded in mystery. Andrés  was apparently driving erratically, allegedly running at least one car off of the road and taking the mirror off of a second car. Despite the fact that the roads in the Somosierra mountain pass are steep, with sharp turns and cliffs, the truck sped towards 90 mph. At one point, the truck tried to take a curve at too high of a speed and tipped.
          The cab of the truck buckled on impact, killing both Andrés  and Carmen instantly. The sulfuric acid began to spill into the area, and this triggered small explosions. Thousands of pounds of lime were brought in to soak up the sulfuric acid and keep it from reaching any nearby waterways. Investigators checked the brakes on the truck, initially believing that they had failed and caused the accident. But the brakes were intact and no answers were found at the initial scene. When investigators realized that Juan Pedro should have been in the wreckage, they leapt into a search that is still going on to this day.

(The scene of the accident.
via El Español)

The Investigation

          There is not a lot of information out there about the investigation into the accident, but a few facets have trickled out to be public knowledge. Extensive searches of the area were conducted with no clues or signs of Juan Pedro found. Missing posters for Juan Pedro blanketed the area, in case he had somehow managed to make his way away from the immediate area of the crash site. Besides those routine investigative routes, a few tips rolled in.
          Witnesses that saw the accident or came upon it claimed to have seen a white Nissan Vanette stop near the wreckage of the truck after the accident. It was driven by a tall man with a mustache. He was accompanied by a woman. Both individuals were described as very tall and “Nordic-looking” – so likely fair in coloring. Onlookers claimed that they approached the crumpled truck Andrés  Martínez was driving and removed a small package before leaving the scene. It is important to stress that this is in no way verified and the accounts have possibly been exaggerated over time and as the story had spread over the internet.
          Additionally, the tachometer (the device in a vehicle that measures an engine’s revolutions per minute) on the delivery truck driven by Andrés  Martínez was recovered intact. It showed that the truck made twelve unexplained stops during their journey. These were short stops that did not match with traffic patterns, with the shortest stop lasting only one second. There is currently nothing to explain these stops, though some theorize that Andrés  was trying to avoid or signal another vehicle on the road – possible that white Nissan Vanette seen at the scene of the accident. However, these theories are not based in anything other than speculation.
          There were several sightings of a boy matching Juan Pedro Martínez’s description after the accident. The first took place in Bilbao, which was the destination of the ill-fated trip. Most were never substantiated, and the reports often lacked any details to tie them back to Juan Pedro specifically. There is one often-reported sighting that bears a striking similarity to Juan Pedro, however. In May of 1987, a blind woman entered a driving school in Madrid, Spain. The owner claimed that she was of Iranian descent and asked for the location of the US Embassy. A boy of about ten years old appeared to be guiding the woman. The boy spoke Spanish with the accent of a nearby region. When the owner of the driving school asked more about the boy, the woman abruptly changed the subject. He stated the boy seemed out of sorts and identified a photo of Juan Pedro as the boy he saw that day.

(Investigators examining a missing poster for Juan Pedro.
via El Español)


          In my experience researching this case, it has captured the attention of many due to two reasons – the strange nature of the trip, and the theories revolving around what happened to Juan Pedro Martínez after the fatal accident. The first theory is that Juan Pedro perished in the crash alongside his parents, but his body was dissolved in acid that had leaked from the tanker located directly behind his seat. This theory has been debunked, but still surfaces in internet surfaces. While sulfuric acid is capable of dissolving an entire human body, it can take days to do so. Due to the fact that the crash was witnessed and the truck was searched nearly immediately, Juan Pedro’s body would have been discovered before it could be dissolved.
          A more sinister theory is that Juan Pedro was kidnapped by drug traffickers and killed for having witnessed more than he should have. Examination of the tank carrying the sulfuric acid allegedly showed trace amounts of cocaine. This, coupled with the sightings of the man and woman removing the package from the truck cab before leaving the scene of the accident, has led to speculation that Andrés  was involved in drug trafficking. It’s possible that Juan Pedro knew something about the drugs or witnessed something he shouldn’t have, and was taken from the scene of the accident to prevent him from speaking to authorities. However, no one saw the couple leave with Juan Pedro or any sign of him, so this theory doesn’t hold up in my opinion.
          A third theory is that Juan Pedro suffered head trauma in the accident and wandered away with some sort of memory loss. There was no concrete evidence of Juan Pedro receiving a head wound, but the cab of the truck was so demolished, it’s absolutely possible. The sightings discussed in the previous section also line up with this theory. However, no one saw a boy wandering away from the scene of the accident – but it is possible he slipped out of the truck during the initial confusion of the crash.
          A theory that goes hand-in-hand with the previous theory is that Juan Pedro wandered away from the scene of the accident and subsequently succumbed to his wounds in the nearby wilderness. I have seen this theory go two ways – first, it is possible that Juan Pedro did receive a head wound and wandered away, disoriented. Because of this disorientation, he succumbed to the elements. The second version of this theory is that Juan Pedro received burns from the sulfuric acid and wandered into the wilderness in search of water to ease his pain. In the wilderness, he either succumbed to his wounds or found a river and was swept away. This, unfortunately, is the most likely scenario in my mind. Juan Pedro not being seen walking away from the scene of the accident can be explained away by the initial flurry of confusion at the scene. The fact that his remains have never been found can also be explained – the surrounding terrain is mountainous and rough, making it difficult to search. Additionally, if Juan Pedro had been swept away by a river, his remains may have been found, but not linked to the case.
          I typically include information about where to report information and what agencies are investigating the case at the end of my posts. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any of that information for this case. I don’t even know if it’s still being investigated. It’s possible that that specific information is in some Spanish-Language resources, but the ones I was able to find did not include it. If you know any of this info, please feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll add an edit.


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