Jack McAtee crashed his car into a reservoir in the mountains of Colorado on Sept. 18, 2014. He survived with only a scratch and told a police officer he'd fallen asleep at the wheel. The officer suspected the crash might've been intentional and the 27-year-old spent a night at a mental health facility in Frisco. A day later, the Breckenridge man was released and disappeared, reports the Washington Post. His family told the Summit Daily News McAtee had 10 days earlier stopped taking his medication for bipolar disorder, just as he had done a few times before when he dropped out of sight, but he always resurfaced. Over the next year, they scoured the country in search of him, thinking perhaps he'd gone off the grid like Chris McCandless, the subject of his favorite book, Into the Wild.
They reached out to contacts in Alaska, where McAtee had flown planes, and homeless shelters, where they thought he might volunteer, but found no sign of him. In July, McAtee's father wrote online that "there is a 50% chance that Jack wandered off into the wilderness and attempted to survive." But a month later, two hikers found a skull near the top of the Peak One, immediately south of Frisco; DNA confirmation that the skull was McAtee's came earlier this month. "Our search has come to fruition," McAtee's family wrote. "Our closure is at hand, albeit we acknowledge it will be a lifelong process." It's still not clear how or when McAtee died. His skull was all that was found of his remains, reports the Denver Post. What is certain: "A person, an irreplaceable person, is gone," his family says. But "the story's not over," McAtee's father adds. The family is hoping to raise $50,000 to build wells in Kenya in McAtee's memory. Nearly $15,000 has been raised so far. (The Into the Wild author has revised his McCandless death theory.)