Italian police have identified the remains of a French skier more than half a century after he was lost in the Alps, thanks to social media.
In 2005, police in Italy’s Aosta region found human remains and ski equipment 3,000 meters (10,000 ft) up in the mountains near the Swiss-Italian border. They thought the man died during a ski descent, but were unable to identify the body at the time.
Advances in DNA technology allowed forensic investigators in Turin to narrow down the criteria last year: the man was around 30-years-old, 1.65 meters (5.4 feet) tall, and died sometime in early spring.
Investigators also established that the man went missing sometime in the 1950s, after they dated a coin in his pocket to sometime between 1946-1950.
However, despite their best efforts, they remained unable to put a name to the body, and hypothesized the skier may not have been Italian, meaning no one in the country was likely to identify him.
Last month, police posted their findings on social media and urged people to help solve the mystery. According to a statement Sunday, the appeal soon went viral, prompting several newspapers and radio stations to pick up the news.
Finally, a French citizen listening to a broadcast about the skier managed to connect the dots between the body and her long-lost uncle.
Emma Nasem responded to the original police Facebook post, saying her uncle Henri Le Masne was lost in the Alps during a violent storm in 1954. A later DNA test using saliva collected from Nasem’s 95-year-old father confirmed the remains were those of Le Masne, police said.
Her father was able to provide more details on his long-lost brother. Le Masne was 35 when he died, an employee of the French Ministry of Finance, and had a passion for skiing. He loved the solitude of the mountains and the sense of freedom hiking and skiing on them gave him, and was unworried by potential dangers.
Henri Le Masne died on his birthday: March 26, 1954.