Dante de la Torre set off early Wednesday afternoon to the Gold Run rest stop area off of California's Interstate 80, ready to gather soil samples for a high school science project he was working on. Just over a day later, the California 16-year-old was found dead in a remote section of that wooded area, and authorities are now trying to figure out what happened to him. Police say Dante headed out to the rest stop around 12:30pm Wednesday, believed to be wearing snow boots and carrying water bottles, a hand towel, and a small shovel with him for his assignment, per CBS News.
The Colfax High School junior never returned home, however, and once he was reported missing, search crews scoured the Gold Run area later Wednesday. They came up empty but returned Thursday with 40 or so search and rescue members, including police dogs, per KCRA. Locals apparently also joined in the search at one point and were asked by the Placer County Sheriff's Office to stand back. "While we appreciate the offer to help, this will only impede our search for him," the sheriff's office said in a Facebook post, noting that having so many people involved could cause the K9s to lose Dante's scent. Then, just before 7pm local time, tragic news.
"It is with a heavy heart we are updating the community that [Dante] was found deceased this afternoon," authorities said in a statement, per People. A cause of death hasn't been released, though the sheriff's office says it doesn't suspect foul play; a coroner will examine the teen's body. It also isn't clear why he was allowed to go by himself, during school hours, to the rest stop to work on the project, notes KCRA. In the meantime, the school district is mourning the soccer player and International Baccalaureate student, said to be "well-loved by many on campus," the outlet notes. "Such tragedies, especially when they involve young people, are very difficult to process," the Placer Union High School District said in a release. (Read more death stories.)