The sad news that many in the community were fearing became reality Tuesday afternoon after the BC Coroners Service confirmed the identity of human remains found two weeks ago to be that of Greg Welstead, who was reported missing in March.
Human remains were found on Aug. 28 and additional remains were recovered during subsequent search efforts conducted on Sept. 5.
According to the BC Coroners Service, a post-mortem investigation, including DNA analysis, confirmed that the deceased was Welstead.
Welstead was last seen alive leaving his residence on March 12. Sunshine Coast RCMP launched a missing persons investigation after his vehicle was found unoccupied and he failed to return home. It was determined that he died the same day or shortly thereafter. He was 56 years old at the time of his death. RCMP have ruled out foul play.
Stephen Fonseca, coroner and manager, identification and disaster response unit, said that the case is still under investigation and no cause of death has been determined yet.
“We know that there has been considerable speculation surrounding this case, so we wanted to make sure the public and the community knew the identity,” said Fonseca. “Mr. Welstead's family has been notified of the confirmed identification. On behalf of the family, the BC Coroners Service asks that the media respect their privacy at this difficult time. The BC Coroners Service would like to acknowledge assistance provided by the Sunshine Coast RCMP detachment, Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue, the local Conservation Officer Service and concerned local residents.”
Mary Degan, Welstead's roommate, best friend and former partner, reacted to the news with obvious sadness.
“It's a comfort to have closure,” Degan said.
“In cases like this when people wander off into the woods, they are never found. We feel lucky that we found him, and we're grateful that we know to some degree.”
Degan said from what she understands from the Coroners Service, it is likely Welstead succumbed to injuries sustained in the crash.
“We know there was a head injury. He broke his glasses in the crash in the worst storm in the winter,” she said. “He just picked the wrong road and went in the wrong direction.”
Degan remembers Welstead as a consummate volunteer who put his full energy into this community — too many volunteer organizations to name, but most notably his work with One Straw Society, Habitat for Humanity and the Roberts Creek Community Association.
“He really cared about sustainability. That was part of his dream … why he moved here,” she said. “He was a business coach and mentor. He wanted to create a small business centre to provide coaching and support and to help small businesses get to that sustainable level. He cared about finding ways to support business on the Coast.”
Degan said she and Welstead were three weeks away from starting a farm together when he went missing.
“He was so excited and his life was taking a turn for the better. Professionally, things were looking great. Personally, things were going well,” Degan said. “My comfort is I know everything in his life was going his way and I'm hoping he had that in his final moments.
“I'm very sad. It's a real personal loss. We functioned as a team. Greg was an innovator. He would give someone the shirt off his back even if he needed it because he could see the need. He was an incredibly generous and caring man. This is a such a loss for this community. He did so much and wanted to contribute so much more. He loved the community here.”
A significant volunteer search effort was carried out in the days after March 12, when Welstead's car was found crashed into a tree on Reed Road, the driver missing.
Search and rescue teams combed the area until March 17, but found no trace of Welstead. Video footage from the ferry terminals was also reviewed.
Degan said friends are planning a celebration of life. More details will be made public in the coming weeks.