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Body ID’d as Fenn treasure hunter from Colorado

SANTA FE – The body of a Colorado Springs man said to have gone missing while looking for Santa Fe author Forrest Fenn’s “Thrill of the Chase” treasure was positively identified on Friday.

Eric Ashby, 31, was rafting in south Colorado’s Royal Gorge June 28 when the raft capsized. A body discovered in the Arkansas River east of Florence a month later was thought at the time to be Ashby’s.

According to a Friday Facebook announcement from Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller, DNA samples from Ashby’s father were sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations to compare to a sample from an August autopsy. The DNA test confirmed the body as Ashby’s.

Shortly after the body’s discovery, Fremont County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Megan Richards described the body as “unidentifiable.”

Keller told the Journal on Monday it typically takes six to eight months to get DNA results. “Everything got done as quickly as possibly we could at this point,” he said.

Fenn, an art and antiquities collector and dealer, says he has hidden a chest full of gold coins and other precious objects somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. A poem published in his 2010 memoir “The Thrill of the Chase” is said to include clues to the treasure’s whereabouts, inspiring people from around the country to look for the loot in the wild, and follow clues and theories posted online.

Before Ashby disappeared, two other men had died looking for the treasure, both along the Rio Grande in New Mexico.

Ashby’s friend Dave Gambrell said in July that Ashby had been in email communication with Fenn before searching for the treasure in Colorado, but Fenn told the Journal at the time that he had no record of conversations with Ashby. Ashby’s sister says he loved solving puzzles and was intrigued by the Fenn treasure hunt.

Fenn did not respond to an email request for comment Monday.

Ashby was rafting with several others who made it to shore when their raft overturned, but none of them reported the emergency. A bystander did call police.

Since Ashby’s disappearance, friends and family have been pushing for passage of “Eric’s Law” in Colorado to require those who witness life-threatening situations to call police.

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