A search is underway for a missing California college student who disappeared after paddling in the Pacific Ocean, and who was recently known to have been laying clues to the treasure hunt he was organizing.
Hunter Nathaniel Lewis, 21, failed to return home on December 30. The student at California State University Long Beach was last believed to have wandered near the Port of Trinidad between 10 a.m. and noon, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Lewis family, he left his home in Blue Lake at 8:30 a.m. to hide things as part of a treasure hunt he was organizing for his friends, the mayor’s office said.
That evening, the deputies began a ground search, and the US Coast Guard deployed a helicopter and boat to search the waters, but there were no signs of Lewis.
Several agencies, including Humboldt County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Posse and the U.S. Coast Guard and California State Parks are searching for Lewis in surrounding beaches and the ocean for Lewis, with the help of a Coast Guard helicopter, boats and foot searches.
A broken piece of Lewis’ green 15-foot fiberglass boat washed ashore north of Elk Head on Saturday. Additional searches of that area by Representatives and the Coast Guard yielded no clues about Lewis’ whereabouts.
The Humboldt Bay Fire Dive Rescue and Recovery Team launched an underwater search Thursday morning, along with other agencies, in the Flatiron Rock area, northwest of Trinidad Head. Officials said teams decided it was “essential” to conduct an underwater search there based on information collected and items found during searches in the Trinidad area.
The search included several boats, a deep-water sonar device, rescuers and divers.
However, Thursday’s search yielded no signs of Hunter or his belongings.
Hunter runs an Instagram page called “Lostlewistreasure” where he posted information about a treasure hunt he organized in Humboldt, California, offering a “cash prize of over $100”.
Hunter’s father, Corey Lewis, said the family is coordinating with independent search and rescue teams, divers and sonar-equipped boats, describing the mission as “a recovery operation. It’s no longer a rescue.”
Corey said his son loved surfing, rock climbing, and playing guitar and that he had already earned his pilot’s license and scuba diving.
He was studying Aeronautical engineering, dreams of becoming an astronaut and was accepted into a training academy at NASA.
“About two years ago, he decided he would start working on this epic treasure hunt for all his friends and family to get involved one day,” his father said.
“He was busy finding clues and we would go out and find a clue and bring it home and be around the kitchen table at night looking for things to try and solve these puzzles. It was so much fun. We all got it together.”
Corey said one of the clues was on a fisherman’s key 3D-printed that had teeth matching the outline of two nearby islands, and the heart on the key matching Flatiron Rock.
Corey said the fisherman was cruising the ocean to deposit a treasure chest on Flatiron Rock, but that “there is a shallow, rocky reef on the inner side of Flatiron that he knew nothing of.”
“We are sure he overturned and destroyed those reefs,” he said.
Lewis said researchers found the wreckage of the treasure chest on the beach in Trinidad. Among the wreckage was something valuable to the Lewis family: a wooden box given to him by a Corey father.
He’s always in the name of the face. He had such a zest for life, said Corey. A friend from college I’d never met texted me saying, ‘Hunter taught me more than anyone I’ve ever known. He taught me how to smile and how to love myself. That was a Hunter.”
Anyone with information regarding Hunter’s current or potential whereabouts is urged to contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251.