KINKORA – The body of Justin Brad Hunter was recovered from a wooded area in Kinkora on Thursday, about 500 metres from where his car was found the previous evening – and within a stone's throw from help.
The 32-year-old's grey 2007 Mazda 6 went off Route 225, just west of Kinkora, sometime Wednesday morning.
The car rode up a guardrail, flipped and slid down an embankment. It wasn't spotted again until a passing trucker noticed it that evening.
A ground search got underway shortly thereafter, but Hunter was not located until about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
It's not the news the search teams were hoping for, said Sgt. Andrew Blackadar of the RCMP.
"They're holding up as best as can be expected," said Blackadar shortly after news broke that Hunter had been found.
"The searchers are always relieved that they've been able to find the person they were looking for. Of course it's a huge disappointment because they didn't find him alive. But they certainly train for that and they know the possible outcomes when they're out here searching," he said.
It's impossible to say why Hunter walked the way he did, added Blackadar, but it appears he passed close to at least one home before collapsing.
"It's hard to say at this point if there were any injuries from the motor vehicle crash, but obviously he was disoriented," he said.
"He was walking in the opposite direction of the highway, following a tree line —which is where we found him."
Hunter, of Kinkora, was last seen at about 1 a.m. on Wednesday when some friends dropped him off at home.
When his car was spotted and reported to RCMP, a dog team and members of the P.E.I. Ground Search and Rescue team were called out to search the area around the vehicle.
The first RCMP officers on the scene found tracks around the car but high winds and blowing snow quickly filled them in.
"The searchers are always relieved that they've been able to find the person they were looking for. Of course it's a huge disappointment because they didn't find him alive." - Sgt. Andrew Blackadar
The search was called off shortly after midnight on Thursday but resumed later that morning.
Search and rescue volunteers, firefighters, P.E.I. Department of Transportation crews and RCMP dog, helicopter and patrol units all assisted in the search.
The investigation into Hunter's death is still ongoing and an autopsy will be conducted as soon as possible, said Blackadar.
The RCMP issued a thank you to the public and all the volunteers who aided in the search.