MILAN — Italian authorities are investigating whether a body found in the Adriatic Sea could be related to the disappearance of a U.S. airman some 30 miles away, police said Monday.
"We are in a phase of complete hypothesis," said Carabinieri Maj. Salvino Macli, adding that it could take days to identify the body.
The body, found over the weekend, appeared to have been in the water for a long time. Macli said canals in the area where Staff Sgt. Halex Hale was last seen empty out into the Adriatic, raising the possibility that the airman could have fallen into a canal.
The 24-year-old from Middletown, Indiana, who is assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base north of Venice, went missing on July 2 after leaving a friend's cookout off-base to walk to another friend's home about 15 minutes away. Macli said Hale left behind his cellphone, car and wallet at the cookout.
Italian authorities, which have jurisdiction since Hale went missing off base, called off the active search involving divers and dogs, on Saturday evening after yielding no concrete clues. Macli said they are continuing the investigation and have widely circulated a missing person's report.
Hale has been in the Air Force for six years and at Aviano since February 2015. He also served in Afghanistan.