The two young campers who went missing after setting off on a trip in Victoria's west Gippsland area one week ago have been found dead, police confirmed.
Caleb Forbes, 22, and Shannon Lowden, 21, left in Mr Forbes’ green 1994 Nissan Patrol wagon, and were headed to near the Thomson Dam on Friday last week.
The couple did not say when they would return, but an alarm was raised when Mr Forbes failed to attend work two days later.
Searches by land and air started on Monday, with help from friends and family of the pair.
Efforts to find the duo ramped up on Wednesday, with about 30 friends and family joining dozens of police, SES members and locals to search bushland around the Rawson, Aberfeldy and Thomson Dam areas.
The search continued on Thursday and Friday, with off-road motorbike riders tackling hard-to-reach terrain in hopes of finding the pair or Mr Forbes' green 1994 Nissan Patrol.
A devastating conclusion to desperate search
The bodies of Mr Forbes and Ms Lowden were found in the vehicle, off the Trig East track, about 5km east of Thomson Dam, about 11am on Friday, police confirmed.
Speaking to reporters at Rawson on Friday afternoon, Inspector Shane Cashman said the track was “difficult to negotiate”.
He added that finding the couple inside the car, was “very difficult for everyone concerned”.
“I have spoken to the family and they are understandably devastated,” Insp Cashman said.
“It is upsetting for everybody that we have not been able to find them safely.”
He praised the Victorian community for banding together in support of the missing couple.
“It has been almost a week of searching for Caleb and Shannon and we want to thank the community for what you have done and given us.
“People are still ringing now to find out how they can come up over the weekend to help out and we have had to turn them away unfortunately, because of the results,” Insp Cashman said.
“The community response has been as good as we have ever seen.”
Messages of thanks to community of searchers
As the devastating news broke, messages of condolences flooded in on social media, praising the efforts of friends who helped police and emergency crews with the search.
“Good job on all your work searching and social media assistance! So sorry that it has ended this way! Condolences to you and the families of Caleb & Shannon,” one wrote in a search party post by Mr Forbes’ friend Jacob McGhee.
Another added: “My heart breaks for their families and friends. I’m so very sorry to hear this news. May they Rest In Peace. And to you Jacob, you have done your friends proud by getting a team together to search for them. you went above and beyond to find them. Im sorry for your loss.”
Police will investigate the circumstances that caused the vehicle to leave the road, and prepare a report for the Coroner.
Authorities advised anyone setting off on camping trips to let others know where and when they are going, as well as their vehicle and skill level.
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