Body in Southern California sea cave may be diver missing since 2020, police say

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Officials in Southern California believe they may have found the remains of a diver who went missing in 2020, after local recreational divers alerted police to a body near an underwater cave system in the Channel Islands.

“Coroner’s detectives plan on utilizing rapid DNA to confirm the identity of the decedent with anticipated completion next week,” the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday. “The Sheriff’s Office will share the decedent’s identity when it is confirmed, and the next-of-kin have been notified.”

Police suspended their search for the missing diver in 2020

(Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office)

Search and rescue divers recovered the remains on Friday on the sea floor near an underwater cave system beneath Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the Channel Islands.

The sheriff’s office was supported by officials from the Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s offices, as well as the National Park Service.

Police have not officially confirmed the identity of the remains, but indicated they could belong to 31-year-old Ryder Sturt, who went missing in December 2020 while diving in the area with a friend for lobster.

A rescue diver enters the water on 11 November as police investigate remains found off the Channel Islands

(Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office)

When Sturt’s dive partner noticed he had failed to surface, officials began to search near Santa Cruz Island.

The sheriff’s office and US Coast Guard conducted multiple days of operations to locate the missing Port Hueneme man but were unsuccesful.

At the time, police said they did not consider the disappearance the result of foul play.

A Facebook page apparently belonging to Sturt shows photos of him posing with seals, crabs, and fish during scuba diving trips.

The 31-year-old worked as a stagehand, camera operator, and movie grip in the Santa Barbara area, and survived a battle with non-Hodgkins Lymphona, according to a GoFundMe link on the page.

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