The body of what is believed to be a 32-year-old missing Milton-Freewater man has been recovered in Tiger Canyon, about five months since he was first reported missing.Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.
Jason Sartin disappeared Nov. 13, 2009, while on an off-road trip with an acquaintance. A deputy and trooper with the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police spotted what is believed to be Sartin's vehicle by air in the Tiger Canyon area Wednesday, according to a news release.
Sartin was last seen by his acquaintance, Nathan Koerner, who said Sartin was driving his silver, raised 1976 four-wheel drive Chevrolet shortbed pickup in the Umatilla National Forest last winter, authorities said. Officials believe Sartin and his vehicle went off the road and down a cliff, while Koerner was able to get out.
Authorities recovered the body Friday, and it was taken to the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office in Portland for an autopsy.
Umatilla County Sheriff John Trumbo said the autopsy will give them Sartin's cause of death, as well as confirm his identity. Trumbo, however, said he is about "99 percent sure" the body recovered is Sartin.
"We have nobody else that's missing in that area," Trumbo said. "The physical description matches Jason."
An extensive search to find Sartin last winter was called off as severe winter weather intensified, with Trumbo calling to resume the search this spring.
Trumbo said his deputy and the trooper had been canvassing the area by air, and were on a last survey of the area when they caught a glimpse of what looked like light reflecting off the vehicle.
Trumbo said the timing could not have been better: In a bit more time, leaves would fill out on trees, rendering the area nearly unsearchable once again.
Trumbo said he is waiting on the autopsy results before closing the case.
If Sartin's injuries are consistent with what they believe was an accident, it will be closed. If, however, Sartin's injuries indicate something else may have occurred, the agency's major crimes team could be brought in to investigate.
"We need to determine if this accident is what it's alleged to be," Trumbo said.