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Body Recovered of U.S. Airman Halex Hale, Who Vanished in Italy

ROME — The body of a U.S. airman who went missing in northern Italy was recovered Tuesday, three days after authorities called off the search for the 24-year-old.

The body of Staff Sgt. Halex Hale was found about half a mile away from where he was last seen in Sacile, according to Italian police.

Hale, from Middletown, Indiana, went missing on July 2 after leaving a friend's off-base cookout to walk to another friend's home about 15 minutes away. Authorities believed he was drunk and fell into a nearby canal, which was swollen due to recent rains.

Image: Air Force Staff Sgt. Halex Hale
Air Force Staff Sgt. Halex Hale. Aviano Air Base via AP

Italian police said his body, spotted by a woman who lives near the water, was identified by Hale's father and a colleague. An autopsy will be performed Wednesday, they said.

Hale's father, Lance Hale, told NBC News that he doesn't believe his son was inebriated and swept into the canal. He said a fellow airman told him that his son had left the party without his wallet, keys and cellphone, "which is very strange."

"I walked the route that leads to the square from [the friend's] house today several times, and it just doesn't make sense," Lance Hale said Sunday. "There are hard shoulders, trees, houses all along the way. One can't just slip into the water — you really have to climb into something and jump into it, even if the canal was swollen, as they say."

Hale, who was assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base north of Venice, had been in the Air Force for six years. He had been at Aviano since February 2015, his mother, Amy Hale, told The Star Press of Muncie, Ind.