By Eric Francis
NORTH HARTLAND – The body of a Sunapee, N.H. man whose car had been left at the Quechee Gorge in mid-February was recovered at the North Hartland Dam early Wednesday afternoon.
Hartford Police identified the remains that were discovered as those of 42-year-old Michael Hayward Jr. who was reported as a missing person to authorities back on Feb. 7th.
Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brad Vail said the body was recovered at the dam, which sits just around a bend out of sight from the base of the Quechee Gorge, by members of the Hartford Fire Department’s Swift Water Rescue Team at approximately 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. It was immediately transported to the Vermont Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington for an autopsy.
Although police had been treating Hayward’s disappearance as an on-going missing persons case, they had suspected from the beginning that he might have jumped into the 163-foot deep gorge, a landmark which has been the site of one or two suicides on nearly an annual basis now for decades.
Hayward was first reported missing to New Hampshire authorities after his wife went to pick him up as usual at the end of his work week that Friday at the family’s well-known electrical and air conditioning business in West Lebanon and couldn’t locate him. After Hayward failed to return home that evening, area police were alerted to look for his vehicle and it was found the next morning at a parking area at the Quechee Gorge, a somewhat ominous development given the number of people who have jumped to their deaths into the 163-foot deep landmark over the years.
There was no suicide note in the vehicle and no signs of foul play at the time but Hayward’s wallet and his credit cards were discovered about a mile further down Route 4 scattered along the edge of the roadway near the new Jake’s Market.