Young Wildlife Photographer Found Dead in State Park

18-year-old wildlife photographer Carson Hughes tragically passes away

An 18-year-old wildlife photographer was found dead in a state park he often visited to capture images.

Carson Hughes of Osgood, Indiana, was found dead in a lake in Versailles State Park on Sunday, March 17, after going missing for two days, The Kansas City Star reported. A search for the young photographer included the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, several other agencies, and 100 volunteers, according to news station WSBT 22. Police dogs, thermal imaging, drones, and helicopters were also used in the recovery effort.

“So we’re going to exhaust the entire you know, the lake in the back and the creek here and then all the trails and the biking trails. Kind of the entire park,” Josh Thomas, a conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources, told news station WCPO.

Alarm bells went off when he first went missing the Friday prior. Authorities found Hughes’ car unlocked with the keys inside, his kayak nearby on the water, and his tripod along a pond.

“Something isn’t right,” The Kansas City Star reported the group said at the time.

Hughes’s body was found in Versailles Lake in the park in six feet of water on Sunday, according to The Kansas City Star. Divers used sonar to find him.

“I have received very sad news concerning my dear friend Carson Hughes,” Indiana Thermal Recovery, which first found Hughes’ camera on its tripod, said in a Facebook post. You will be forever missed & remembered. Until we meet again, I will continue to keep making a positive impact to the world & inspire just like you did.”

Hughes, who was still in high school and preparing to attend Purdue University in the fall, developed an active following from his wildlife photography. His Instagram profile, with more than 16,000 followers, shows rows and rows of beautiful photos of the animals he captured, many of them in Versailles State Park, where he was found dead.

Hughes’ cause of death is unknown, pending the results of an autopsy.

“Bright Fire Department sends our deepest sympathy to the Hughes family,” the fire department said in a Facebook post. “Such a tragedy for an amazing young man.”