In October 2016, Chatham, Massachusetts, native Matthew Amsler disappeared. The 24-year-old husband and father vanished on a cold, rainy night after leaving a group of friends parked at the beach.GoFundMe
According to the Cape Cod Times, Amsler and his friends were parked at Lighthouse Beach across from U.S. Coast Guard Station Chatham on Oct. 27 when he started walking away.
He reportedly suffered from mental health issues, so it wasn’t unusual for him to up and leave for a few days. This time, however, his family believed he was experiencing a “bad reaction” to medicine he was taking for schizophrenia.
When Amsler failed to return home by the following evening, his wife, Catherine, reported him missing to police.GoFundMe
Chatham authorities initiated a wide-scale search for the young father. Chatham Police Chief Mark Pawlina told the Cape Cod Times:
“We went down our checklist and asked for help from the Coast Guard, the State Police, from our fire department, the media and the public. […] We think we hit all the points on our checklist.”
Nearly two weeks after Amsler went missing, a GoFundMe account was set up to help the family deal with the financial difficulties the father’s absence created, as well as to hire an investigator.
The page administrator acknowledged the struggles of dealing with Amsler’s recent diagnosis but wrote that Amsler had been holding a steady job and recently returned to school:
He loves his wife, and daughter, and would never intentionally do anything to hurt his family. However, right now he is not himself, and he may not be fully aware of his actions. We need to find him, we need to bring him home, and we need to continue to help him through treatment!
Family worried that as the days went by that Matthew was still missing, not having proper medication would further complicate the search.GoFundMe
According to NBC Boston, a next door neighbor, Jack Cushing, who knew Amsler since he was a boy, said:
“Nobody had any idea what actually had happened. […] It’s a terribly sad thing.”
Now, nine months after Amsler went missing, he has been reportedly found and located closer than anyone could have imagined.
As the Cape Cod Times reports, at the Chatham Coast Guard station, across the street from where Amsler had been last seen, a team conducting a simulation training boarded a historical rescue boat on display and opened a compartment on the ship.
Inside were Amsler’s remains.
The 44-foot self-righting motor boat was built with an airtight, watertight compartment to keep passengers dry in case it capsized, according to Greg Ketchen, president of the Coast Guard Heritage Museum.Screenshot/NBC Boston
It is believed Amsler crawled inside the compartment to seek shelter the night he disappeared. The chamber could be opened from the inside, but he likely fell asleep and ran out of oxygen overnight.
An update on GoFundMe reads:
He had crawled into an airtight space on a boat for shelter from a recent storm, and fell peacefully asleep and ran out of oxygen.
Ketchen added that any air vents in the compartment would have been closed for the display, and that the watertight seals would have kept odors from escaping.
Amsler’s father, James, told reporters he’s angry over the discovery of his son’s body, mostly because he suspected it was there all along.GoFundMe
According to the Cape Cod Times, while looking for his son, James attempted to climb aboard the boat but was stopped by the Coast Guard:
“I tried to search the boat personally. I thought it was where Matty would go. […] It was an obvious thing.”
He was assured the boat had already been searched.
The boat was retired in 2009 after 46 years of service, and is currently on display for the public, although tours are not permitted on board. A wooden platform guides visitors to the side of the vessel to look into the cockpit, but access aboard the boat is prohibited.
According to the Cape Cod Times, officials do not suspect foul play was involved in Amsler’s death. In fact, his father said it was as simple as Amsler laying down to sleep:
“He had his boots off like he was laying down on a bunk and passed out from lack of oxygen. […] He fell asleep and ran out of air in the chamber.”
Amsler’s family has asked for prayers during this difficult time.