Human remains pulled from the Missouri River Sunday are believed to be Nathaniel “Nate” Ashby, who has been missing since July, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office said.
Nate, 22, of Warrenton, Missouri, was last seen driving his 1994 Chevy Silverado to work around 6:45 a.m. on July 31, 2019. But he never showed up.
His sister, Rebecca “Becky” Diller, who talked to Dateline back in early November, said she raised Nate as if he were her own son. She grew concerned when his phone last pinged near a private boat ramp in the area of Bernheimer Road and the Missouri River.
“When his phone pinged in that area, I had a bad feeling,” Becky said in November. “I had a bad feeling he was in that river. With his truck and his phone.”
Water Patrol investigators with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office searched the river near a private boat ramp at Bernheimer Road using sonar images. They detected multiple vehicles submerged in the water, which is common in that area, investigators said.
Sheriff Kevin Harrison told Dateline in November that one of the vehicles appeared to be a truck similar to Nate’s, but said because of river current conditions at the time, it was not possible to safely send a dive team into the river to check it out.
Later that month, the family was contacted by a dive search team from the West Coast offering its assistance. The family put the dive team in contact with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.
They coordinated with Adventures with Purpose Search Team out of Colorado and Team Watters Sonar Search and Rescue out of Illinois on conducting a search and recovery effort for the truck.
The recovery was set for December 29, 2019, before a significant forecasted rise in water level and current was expected to reach the area, authorities said.
After a nine-hour operation on Sunday, the truck was recovered from the river. Authorities said it was about 25 feet underwater and about 150 yards from the boat ramp.
Human remains were found inside the truck. The clothing was the same as what his family said Nate was wearing the last time he was seen.
The remains were transported to the St. Louis County Medical Examiner's Office. While both the sheriff’s office and the family believe the remains to be that of Nate Ashby, it will require dental or DNA analysis for positive identification.
Throughout the course of the operation the river level rose approximately two feet.
“[Jared] Leisek [with Adventures with Purpose Search Team] stated it was probably the most difficult and dangerous operation he had conducted due to the force of the Missouri River currents. He was also surprised at how quickly the conditions began to deteriorate while he was in the water,” the sheriff’s department said in a Facebook Post.
The investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information about Nate's case should contact Warren County authorities at 636-456-7088.