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A student in California has gone missing while setting up a treasure hunt for his friends and family, having canoed out to sea to prepare the final part of the game.
Hunter Lewis, 21, set off from a beach in Humboldt County on 30 December, believed to be heading to the small island of Flatiron Rock to place the final ‘treasure’ of the hunt there.
He had been planning the elaborate hunt for family and friends for nearly two years, having been a skilled outdoorsman with both pilot and scuba licenses.
However, he was not an expert in navigating the waters off Trinidad Beach, with fears that he may have not known about a dangerous rocky reef along his route - and that the search is now a case of 'recovery' rather than rescue.
His father Corey Lewis told the LA Times: “At this point, it’s a recovery operation, not a rescue operation.
“I am just hoping to find my son to return to his mother to bury.”
Corey continued: “We have just been hiking and searching ever since.
“We’re trying to keep moving because once we sit still, we miss our son.
“The real ironic, tragic and epic part of this is he started this whole thing with an Instagram page and a letter saying that we had a lost Lewis family treasure that we didn’t know about off the North Coast.
“He’s that lost treasure.”
A Facebook group has been set up to help the family find answers, with locals told to ‘please share where you have searched’.
On 4 January, Corey posted a video in the group to say the family had ‘solved the mystery’, holding up a heart-shaped key that had been created with a 3D printer.
When aligned with rocky outcrops off the coast, which match the key’s teeth, the handle of the key encircles Flatiron Rock in a heart.
“The riddle for the final treasure he gave us said that it was ‘where his heart was’,” Corey said in the video.
“And of course the key is pointing to Flatiron Rock.”
The devastated father explained that there was a ‘dangerous reef of rocks’ near the tiny island that ‘Hunter didn’t know about’ - not least because it’s ‘only visible as the tide lowers’.
“This is the reef that overturned him,” Corey added.
A GoFundMe campaign has also been created for the family’s ‘search expenses, lost wages, living expenses’, with more than $33,000 (£24,000) already raised.
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that dive teams had been conducting an underwater search of the area, but that on 6 January there were ‘no findings to report’.
An update yesterday (7 January) from the Humboldt Bay Fire Department read: “At about 7:30a.m. on Thursday, January 6, 2022 the Humboldt Bay Fire Dive Rescue & Recovery Team (HBF DRRT) joined the ongoing search for missing canoer Hunter Lewis.
"Hunter was reported missing on Thursday, December 30, 2021, after he failed to return home from recreating in Trinidad. Hunter is believed to have entered the ocean in his canoe near Trinidad Harbor that morning.
“The HBF DRRT began coordinating the underwater search this week based on new information from the family regarding Hunter’s last known destination.
"Due to the exceptionally high surf, tidal swings, and winds that have been present since Hunter went missing and the oncoming storm surge expected Thursday evening, the team predicted a narrow window this morning where conditions would allow for a dive.
“The HBF DRRT partnered with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, California State Parks and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct today’s search. Resources used in the search included multiple boats, a side-scan and a deep-water sonar, lifeguards, divers, and a HBF rescue swimmer.
“The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office also provided scene security to ensure the privacy of involved family.
“The team concluded their search by 1 p.m. Unfortunately, they did not find any signs of Hunter nor any of his belongings.”
The Sheriff’s Office also asked the public to leave search efforts to professional rescuers, warning that the area is ‘extremely hazardous given the current weather conditions’.
Featured Image Credit: Facebook/Trinidad, CA. Search for Hunter Lewis
Topics: US News
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