By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Police are trying to determine if a body seen floating eight kilometers off Copacabana Beach is that of missing Australian backpacker, Ryan Hunt. According to officials, the body found by the Brazilian Navy was located near where the tourist was seen by a fisherman earlier in the week.
Police investigations now say that Hunt, 25, apparently had a psychotic episode after taking a recreational drug on May 21st. According to his traveling companion, Hunt became paranoid, stating that people were trying to kill him and fled Rio’s International Airport before they were to board a flight to Bolivia.
Officials believe that Hunt and his friend inhaled ecstasy before going to a party in the Lapa neighborhood. After leaving the party the two decided to move up their flight to Bolivia, scheduled for May 24th.
Police were able to trace Hunt’s movements after he left the airport to an apartment in Copacabana, where his backpack and laptop were found. Local media has reported that the Australian tourist rented the apartment for US$200 but only stayed only a few hours there before disappearing again.
On Tuesday the Brazilian Coast Guard searched the waters surrounding the uninhabited island of Contunduba, after a local fisherman said he talked to someone resembling Hunt on Monday. The island is not far from Copacabana and Leme beaches and according to officials would have been easy for a good swimmer, such as Hunt, to get to. According to the fisherman the tourist was a bit scratched from shellfish and told him he had swam from the mainland.
Hunt’s girlfriend and uncle have reportedly arrived in Rio to help search for him. According to daily O Globo they have met with officials at the Australian Consulate in Rio and with Rio’s civil police investigators.