A YouTuber has discovered the remains of a missing veteran after a long search that saw him employ drones and sonar technology.
James Hinkle who operates the YouTube channel Echo Divers spotted a submerged vehicle in a private pond thanks to his drone with authorities later diving in to confirm the car belonged to Donnie Erwin.
Police say that Hinkle has been interested in the Donnie Erwin missing person case for many years. Hinkle’s YouTube channel has nine months of videos in which he was searching for Erwin who disappeared in Camdenton, Missouri, in December 2013.
“When I found out that Donnie was a veteran and lived an hour and a half from my home in Clinton, Missouri, I knew I could help with the search,” Hinkle tells CNN.
Hinkle searched numerous ponds in Southern Missouri using drones to see from above, sonar equipment to capture images from beneath the water, and kayaks to get out on the surface.
The Camden County Sherrif’s Office in Missouri released a statement on December 16 confirming that a vehicle had been recovered from a private pond with a license plate that matched Erwin’s car. But no human remains were found.
Then, over the Christmas weekend, cadaver dogs were brought in who alerted the authorities to a specific area of the pond. On Christmas Eve, divers from the Mid County Fire Protection District searched the area the dogs had indicated and recovered human remains from the pond.
Forensic pathologists need to examine the remains to determine whether they are definitely Donnie Erwin’s, however an artificial hip consistent with the one Erwin had was also recovered and investigators are confident the hip and remains belong to him.
“Investigators immediately notified Mr. Erwin’s family of the recovery,” the sheriff’s office says in a statement. “All of us at the Camden County Sheriff’s Office who have investigated this case for ten years are elated at the recovery and overjoyed with the closure we know this brings to the family. This development would not have been possible without the assistance of countless volunteers throughout the years. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you all.”
Taking to his YouTube channel, Hinkle provided a quick update: “It’s finally over, Donnie is coming home.”
Image credits: Camden County Sheriff’s Offce