UTAH COUNTY – The family of a missing couple from Eureka say they are confident the bodies recovered from an abandoned mine shaft in Utah County Wednesday are those of their loved ones.
Riley Powell and his girlfriend Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson were reported missing December 30, 2017.
Family members spoke to Fox 13 Wednesday about the recovery operation, almost three months after the young couple vanished.
“It’s the closure we wanted, but it's obviously an emotional roller coaster," said Amanda Hunt, Otteson’s aunt.
Authorities carried out a dangerous and technical operation Wednesday inside the Tintic Standard #2, an abandoned mine shaft east of Eureka.
“It was this morning we got the call, and it was drop everything and go,” Hunt said.
Questions that have been unanswered since December may finally be resolved.
“We were ready for it,” Hunt said. “It's just, it's still not... you don't know how you're going to react when it comes.”
Wednesday morning, the families watched as crews descended into the mine, which is 1,800 feet deep.
“It’s a big hole,” said Bill Powell, Riley’s father. “You could drive a semi in it.”
The mine shaft near Eureka is in an area the families scoured over during their search.
“We've searched a lot of country, and I mean to find out that they're this close...” Bill Powell said.
“It was actually on our list of ones to check,” Hunt said of the mine. “It was actually the first one we were going to check.”
But because the mine shaft is on private property they couldn’t search right away. However, when police got a tip, things changed.
“Details in the investigation led us to this location,” said Utah County Undersheriff Darin Durfey.
Tuesday night, investigators used a camera cable to look into the mine, and they observed the bodies on a ledge about 100 feet down the shaft.
Unified Fire Authority rescue teams were called in, and they spent hours preparing for the operation. It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon it was deemed safe enough for those crews to enter the mine.
Crews used care and respect as they recovered the bodies but say the finding was gruesome.
“Obviously at this point it appears that foul play is involved,” Durfey said. “We do have some persons of interest.”
The remains will be taken to a Medical Examiner to confirm the identities and the cause and manner of their death.
While the outcome isn’t the one the families were hoping for, they said they are glad to have some closure.
“We’re fortunate it's only been the almost-90 days,” Hunt said. “Some people go missing and are never found again, so if it is them it's definitely closure for us.”
Now the family will focus on justice.
“Somebody had something to do with it, and we want to find out who they are,” Powell said.
“It’s gone from searching for Breezy and Riley, to justice for Breezy and Riley,” Hunt said.
The family said they hope to have more answers from the Medical Examiner sometime Thursday.
While police have some persons of interest in the case, no arrests have been made.
The mine shaft where the bodies were found is in Utah County, and the Utah County Sheriff’s Office will be taking over the ongoing criminal investigation.