Missing New Zealand Man Confirmed Dead in Possible Drowning


  • Abbey Systems Website
  • Lester Abbey
The Humboldt County Coroner's Office has confirmed that a body found near the Mad River Boat Ramp at 9:20 a.m. today was that of Lester Abbey, who went missing yesterday after leaving for an evening jog. Abbey's body was retrieved by a Coast Guard Helicopter.

The New Zealand man was visiting family in McKinleyville, and his former sister-in-law stated on social media that when he left to run the Hammond Trail at 4:30 p.m., his plan was to jog to the beach, then jump in the Mad River and swim back to his parents' home by Knox Cove. Abbey was fit for his 63 years. The website for his company, Abbey Systems, describes him as an avid cyclist and when his family initially raised the alarm about his disappearance they said he was in "good physical shape." 

Drowning claimed the lives of 12 people in Humboldt County last year, a seven-year high. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that even strong and experienced swimmers can underestimate the strength and frigidity of local waters. The coroner has yet to confirm a cause of death for Abbey, but if confirmed, his would be the third drowning of 2016.

From the Humboldt County Coroner's Office:

At 9:20 this morning, the Sheriff’s Office received a report of a deceased person in the area of Hiller Road and Ocean Drive, McKinleyville. The Coast Guard helicopter retrieved the body and brought it to the Mad River Boat Ramp. The deceased person was positively identified by the Humboldt County Sheriff Coroner’s Division as missing person Lester Abbey.

Lester Abbey’s family has been notified. An autopsy will be performed to determine cause of death.

Previous (6/29/16):

On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at about 9 p.m. Humboldt County Deputy Sheriffs responded to the 2600 block of Knox Cove Drive, McKinleyville, CA for a missing person report. Upon arrival, the Deputies spoke with the reporting party. The reporting party told the Deputies his brother, 63 year old Lester Abbey is visiting from New Zealand and went for a jog on the beach at about 4:30 that evening. The reporting party believed Abbey headed to the beach via Hammond Trail to Mad River area and then run back to the residence north along the beach. Abbey left the residence with “only the clothes on his back,” and has no friends or other relatives in the area. Abbey had no supplies, but is stated to be in good physical shape and family believes him to be capable of sustaining himself overnight if nothing catastrophic happened.

Deputies checked the area of the Hammond Trail to the Mad River Beach area as well as some beach areas north of that location. The US Coast Guard helicopter also flew the area, but was unable to locate any signs of Abbey.

Deputies along with a US Coast Guard helicopter are continuing the search for Abbey today, June 29th.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

Mike Downey

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