Body found in underwater California cave may be diver who disappeared almost 2 years ago

Corrections and clarifications: A previous version of this article listed a different age and hometown for Ryder Sturt. The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office said Sturt was 31 and from Ventura.

Authorities in Southern California say that a body recovered from an underwater cave this month might be that of a scuba diver who disappeared almost two years ago.

The body was recovered near Painted Cave Preserve on Santa Cruz Island, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said in a Monday news release. After two recreational divers reported seeing a possible body close to the ocean floor Nov. 5, Sheriff's Office officials, alongside rescue divers from other agencies, recovered the remains on Friday.

While the "location of the recovery corresponds to a missing diver investigation from 2020," the Sheriff's Office said, the body has not been identifiedyet.

Officials from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, alongside rescue divers from other agencies, recovered the body found near Painted Cave Preserve on Santa Cruz Island.

A corner's investigation will determine the identity. The Sheriff's Office said the body has been taken to its Coroner's Bureau, which expects to complete the identity confirmation using rapid DNA testing by next week.

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The diver who vanished near Painted Cave Preserve in 2020 had been identified as Ryder Sturt, 31, of Ventura, California, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to USA TODAY on Tuesday. Sturt had reportedly been diving for lobster with a partner on Nov. 29, 2020, authorities said.

His partner surfaced but Sturt did not, authorities said at the time, and the dive partner radioed for help, prompting a search of the area. 

Officials from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, alongside rescue divers from other agencies, during the rescue operation.

For this month's recovery operation, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office reached out to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Marine Enforcement Unit and the National Park Service for assistance, according to Monday's news release.

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Divers search the waters near Painted Cave Preserve on Santa Cruz Island.

The Sheriff's Office said it would release the identity of the diver after the Coroner's Bureau confirms it and next of kin are notified.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Gretchen Wenner, Ventura County Star.