Search for California student missing at sea enters fifth day

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Hunter Lewis had big plans for his December 30 canoe trip to Trinidad Bay in Humboldt County. The 21-year-old from California State University Long Beach was at his home in Blue Lake, Calif., For the holidays and had organized an incredibly elaborate scavenger hunt for his family and friends.

Lewis’s three-day hunt involved rappelling down a cliff, climbing a railroad bridge and even decoding messages with an Ottendorf code, according to his father, Corey Lewis. More than 100 people followed the Instagram page where Lewis was posting about “The Lost Lewis Treasure”.

“He started [the hunt] by sending us a letter saying that we have this family heirloom that we don’t know, that we have a lost family treasure along this coast, ”said Corey Lewis. “He was leading us on this wonderful expedition to find him. “

Paddling his family’s 15-foot green canoe to a marine pile called Pilot Rock, Lewis intended to hide the last treasure in a secret location. In a tragic turn of events, however, hundreds of people are now looking for Lewis himself.

He never returned from the ocean, and in the past few days pieces of his canoe have washed up on nearby beaches.

“It’s so epic what he did, and yet I wish he wasn’t the lost treasure,” Corey Lewis said, voice shaking. “I’m sorry. I’m trying to hold on.

A Coast Guard helicopter flies toward Martin Creek Trail beach on the afternoon of January 1.

Ashley harrell

Researchers continue to scour the remote coast in search of signs of Lewis, thousands of people have joined a Facebook group for his rescue and a GoFundMe for additional resources raised over $ 22,000. But Lewis’s dad – a taekwondo grandmaster, life coach, and adventure book author – admits it doesn’t look right. The sea off Trinidad is freezing cold, and while it’s not clear if Lewis was wearing a wetsuit, his father suspects he wasn’t.

“In this water there is no chance of survival,” he said.


It is not possible to know exactly how things turned out badly, but Lewis reportedly entered the ocean in his canoe near Trinidad harbor between 10 a.m. and noon on December 30, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. Around 2 p.m. the wind changed direction, possibly pushing Lewis’s canoe north in bigger waves and capsizing it, Corey Lewis said, “and of course he couldn’t swim in from that point. “

Lewis was reported missing around 7:30 p.m. on December 30, and several agencies responded, including deputies from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Special Services, the Humboldt County Search and Rescue Group, the United States Coast Guard and the United States. California state parks. A Coast Guard helicopter was called in, along with a Coast Guard and small boats, and authorities also searched on foot.

Together, they combed over 1,000 nautical miles of the area but found “no sign of the man or his canoe or his equipment” for two days, according to one. local news report. Many volunteers continued their research on foot, by boat and with drones, and on the afternoon of January 1, part of the canoe was discovered on the Martin Creek Trail beach north of Trinidad.

Since then, many pieces of the canoe and the items Lewis had with him have washed up, his father said, and the family are determined to find him and bury him. It is also important to Corey Lewis that people know who his son was.

Lewis was an adventurer at heart, his father said: a surfer, a climber, a diver, a second degree black belt in taekwondo and an airplane pilot. He obtained his pilot’s license during the pandemic, and his girlfriend, Kinsley Rolph, created a video of him piloting a Cessna 152 and talking about what inspired him to do it. In short, it was his father.

“We both decided now was the time, rather than hiding in a corner, to open up and find something new, something different,” Lewis says in the video. “And so for me it was becoming a student pilot.”

Lewis really loved his girlfriend, his father said, and was studying aerospace engineering with the dream of becoming an astronaut. He had been accepted into NASA’s PoSSUM astronaut science program, and he was really excited to go.

“[Hunter] was full of so much love and happiness, ”said Corey Lewis,“ full of so much life. ”He hopes the story of what happened to his son might motivate others to wear life jackets. rescue on the ocean and tell family members they are loved.

This treasure chest was passed down from the Lewis family.  He ran aground on the beach on Sunday.

This treasure chest was passed down from the Lewis family. He ran aground on the beach on Sunday.

Courtesy of Corey Lewis

As difficult as those days were, Corey Lewis was comforted by the community’s unwavering support. And on Sunday he said, “I got a little piece of my heart back. “

When Corey Lewis was a child his father gave him a small wooden treasure chest, he said, and many years ago he used it in a treasure hunt for Lewis and his other son. Bodie. When Lewis found the box, Corey Lewis gave it to him.

“He had it with him in the canoe, as part of the treasure he was hiding,” Corey Lewis said. “Yesterday we found him on the beach.



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