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Student Goes Missing While Hiding Final Clue In Family Treasure Hunt

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A California student has gone missing while organising a treasure hunt for his friends and family, having canoed out to sea to prepare the final portion of the game.

Hunter Lewis, 21, was last seen leaving a beach in Humboldt County on December 30, believed to be travelling to the small island of Flatiron Rock to place the hunt's final 'prize' there.

He had been a talented outdoorsman with both pilot and scuba certifications for over two years and had been planning the elaborate hunt for family and friends for nearly two years.

However, he was not an expert in navigating the seas near Trinidad Beach, and there are concerns that he may not have been aware of a deadly rocky reef along his route, and that the search is now a case of recovery rather than rescue.

"At this point, it's a recovery operation, not a rescue mission," his father, Corey Lewis, told the Los Angeles Times.

"All I want is to find my son and return him to his mother to bury him."

"We've simply been hiking and searching ever since," Corey continued.

"We're trying to keep moving because sitting motionless makes us miss our son."

"The truly ironic, terrible, and epic element of this is that he started this whole thing with an Instagram page and a letter indicating that we had a lost Lewis family treasure of the North Coast that we didn't know about."

"He's the long-lost treasure."

A Facebook group has been formed to assist the family in their search for answers, and neighbours have been asked to 'please share where you have searched.'

On January 4, Corey posted a video in the group claiming that the family had solved the mystery,' holding up a heart-shaped key made with a 3D printer.

When aligned with rocky outcrops off the coast that match the key's teeth, the key's handle forms a heart around Flatiron Rock.

"The final treasure he gave us was a riddle that claimed it was 'where his heart was,'" Corey added in the video.

"Of course, the key points to Flatiron Rock."

The distraught father revealed 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 when the tide is low.

"This is the reef that flipped him," Corey explained.

A GoFundMe page for the FamilySearch expenditures lost salaries, and living expenses' has also been launched, with over $33,000 (£24,000) already raised.

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office acknowledged that dive teams were conducting an underwater search of the region, but that there were 'no results to report' on January 6.

The Humboldt Bay Fire Department issued the following update yesterday (7 January): "At approximately 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 6, 2022, the Humboldt Bay Fire Dive Rescue & Recovery Team (HBF DRRT) joined the continuing search for missing canoer Hunter Lewis."

"Hunter was reported missing on Thursday, December 30, 2021, after failing to return home following recreational activities in Trinidad." That morning, Hunter is believed to have entered the ocean on his canoe near Trinidad Harbor.

"This week, the HBF DRRT began organising the underwater search based on fresh information from the family about Hunter's last known location."

"Because of the very strong surf, tidal fluctuations, and winds that have been present since Hunter went missing, as well as the impending storm surge projected Thursday evening, the team forecasted a short window this morning where circumstances would allow for a dive."

"Today's search was conducted in collaboration with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, California State Parks, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife." Multiple boats, a side-scan and a deep-water sonar, lifeguards, divers, and an HBF rescue swimmer were deployed in the search.

"The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office also provided on-scene protection to protect the privacy of involved family members."

"By 1 p.m., the team had completed their search." Unfortunately, no trace of Hunter or his things were discovered."

The Sheriff's Office has encouraged the public to leave the search to professional rescuers, noting that the region is 'very hazardous considering the current weather conditions.'