ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Anna Maria Island sunbathers walked past front-load tractors on the beach Friday without a second glance.
It seems tourists and residents alike have accepted the excavation of the pristine beach off Willow Avenue as a necessary step in solving the case of missing island businesswoman Sabine Musil-Buehler.
“I have friends who knew Sabine,” said onlooker Carolyn Marler, who lives on the bayside of the island. “Sabine had a lot of friends. I think all of this is good if we can get closure for everyone.”
The front-loaders, which also scooped sand Tuesday through Thursday, didn’t uncover anything Friday and the search will be on hiatus until probably Tuesday, said Det. Jeff Bliss with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Monday will be a day of meeting and planning, said Sheriff Brad Steube, who was on hand for much of the digging Friday, which closed down at 3 p.m.
“We’ll meet to see exactly where we want to go from here,” Steube said.
The sheriff said he wasn’t disappointed that Musil-Buehler hasn’t been found yet.
“We’re not done,” Steube said.
The front-loaders were scooping beach south of Willow Avenue on Friday, in an area that was previously covered in sea oat grass.
The sheriff’s office obtained a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to remove the sea oats, which are protected since they curb soil erosion, Bliss said.
“We cut off the tops of the sea oats and we will take them to the Manatee Central jail where the inmates will germinate them for replanting on the beach later,” Bliss said.
Many onlookers were fascinated with the process used in checking for Musil-Buehler’s remains in the excavated sand.
The front-loader operators know how to pick up a load of sand and let it fall slowly in small sections while crime technicians standing nearby look for anything unusual in the gently falling grains.
“We have two men who have operated heavy machinery as part of their background and part of their job,” said sheriff’s spokesman Randy Warren.
The two expert operators are Myakka City’s Dale Hancock, a civilian who normally works in the meat processing plant at the Manatee Central jail, and Deputy David Livingston, also an East Manatee resident who works in cattle operations at the jail.
“We were able to pull them from their jobs at the jail without having to find other skilled people to operate a front-loader,” Warren added.
Livingston and Hancock tooted their horns when they saw something through their windshields they wanted the crime techs to check.
It was always just a piece of debris.
“When we actually find remains, you will know the difference,” Warren said. “Everything will stop instantly and we will bring in our investigation teams.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.