Student vanishes while hiding final clue in treasure hunt he spent years making

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A young student has disappeared while placing a final piece of a treasure hunt that he spent two years creating for his family and friends – and his loved ones are now using this same treasure hunt to find him.

Hunter Lewis, 21, set off in a canoe from Trinidad Beach in Humboldt Country, California, USA on December 30, and nobody has seen or heard from him since.

The aerospace engineering student was trying to hide one last piece of puzzle in his complex treasure hunt when he vanished, according to local media.

Hunter's dad, Corey Lewis, told the publication that his son was probably making his way to Flatiron Rock – a tiny island situated several hundred yards offshore – but likely hit a rocky reef in the treacherous waters along the coast.

Mr Lewis said the family are now using the clues in the treasure hunt to find Hunter.

"He’s that lost treasure," his dad said.

"At this point, it’s a recovery operation, not a rescue operation. I am just hoping to find my son to return to his mother to bury."

Hunter's destroyed canoe was tragically found washed ashore, along with a wooden cigar box that was a present to Hunter from his dad.

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Mr Lewis said: "I gave it to Hunter, and he kept his little treasures and belongings in it, and he had it with him and was hiding treasure in it. We found it on a beach."

Hunter's devastated parents are now hoping a 3D printed heart-shaped key, which was the final clue he left behind before disappearing, may help them to find the student's body.

The key was left with a note indicating that the treasure would be found "where his heart is" when held against the horizon from a particular location.

The teeth of the key are said to line up with the rocks surrounding Flatiron Rock with the heart of the key encircling the island itself, according to the Times.

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The US Coast Guard have launched a rescue mission to find Hunter, which is still ongoing.

In a Facebook group dedicated to his son, Mr Lewis wrote on Friday that the search wasn't "over".

Around 2,900 people have joined the group and have helped to search beaches and trails nearby.

Earlier in the week, Mr Lewis posted a photo of Hunter's wooden treasure bucket and vowed: "I'm not stopping ever."

"I'm going to bring Hunter home."

Underwater searches conducted on Thursday in the Flatiron Rock area led to no signs of Hunter or his belongings, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

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