PORTLAND (AP) – The body of an Air Force sergeant who disappeared more than 28 years ago while exploring underwater caves in Greece has been recovered and will be buried this week with full military honors at a cemetery in Biddeford.
The family of Donald Michaud learned two weeks ago that DNA tests determined that remains found by Greek divers were his.
Thursday’s burial in St. Joseph’s Cemetery will bring closure to the family, said Donald Michaud’s father, Patrick Michaud.
Donald Michaud, who enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from Biddeford High School, was stationed at a support base at the Athens airport when he and two others set out to explore underwater caves of Vouliagmeni Lake on Sept. 9, 1978.
None of the three returned from the lake, which is known for its maze of underwater caves and dangerous currents. Navy divers called off the dangerous search a week later after one of them nearly drowned, Patrick Michaud said.
Michaud, who was 32, left behind a wife, Rosemary, and their children, Yuni, 11, Robert, 6, and Katherine, 3, who settled in Mechanic Falls after the tragedy.
His sister, Rachel Michaud of Scarborough, said she and her mother, who died in 2005, held out hope that somehow her brother was alive “because he was in international waters, and maybe if somebody abducted him, he couldn’t get home.”
His son, Robert Michaud, now living in Lewiston, said he, too, always held out a slim hope that his father somehow survived. “Growing up, I envisioned him working secretly for the government. There was this little bit of hope,” he said.
The family learned of new developments last October when the Air Force notified them of the possibility that Michaud’s body had been found by members of a Greek diving club looking for the remains of a Greek photographer who had ventured into the caves in 1990 in a search for the missing Americans and never returned.
After failing to match the remains to the missing photographer, Greek officials turned them over to the U.S. military, which used a DNA analysis to identify the remains.
Michaud’s remains, which include several bone fragments, will be buried with the recovered scuba gear, said Robert Michaud, who still has the diving log found inside his father’s locked car about eight miles south of Athens.
“I think part of me is glad it is going to be behind me,” he said.