Dawson Hartwig was a 20-year-old man who went missing on January 27, 2017, after he left a rented cabin near Lake Arrowhead, California, for a walk. He did not take his cellphone or any personal belongings with him. He was the son of Mark Hartwig, the fire chief of San Bernardino County. His body was found two days later by divers in the lake, in 30 feet of water. What was the cause of death of Dawson Hartwig, and how did his disappearance and death affect his family and community?
A Young Man with a Passion for Life
Dawson Hartwig was born on June 12, 1996, in San Bernardino, California. He was the youngest of three children of Mark and Ann Hartwig. He had an older brother, Taylor, and an older sister, Maci. He grew up in a loving and supportive family, and was close to his parents and siblings.
He attended Yucaipa High School, where he graduated in 2014. He was a bright and friendly student, who excelled in academics and sports. He was also involved in various extracurricular activities, such as the drama club, the chess club, and the mock trial team. He had a passion for music, art, and literature, and enjoyed playing the guitar, painting, and reading.
He was a devout Christian, who attended the Wildwood Calvary Chapel in Yucaipa. He was active in the church’s youth ministry, and participated in several mission trips to Mexico and Haiti. He had a heart for serving others, and was known for his kindness, generosity, and compassion.
He was also adventurous and outgoing, and loved to travel and explore new places. He had visited many countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, and Israel. He also enjoyed hiking, camping, skiing, and snowboarding. He had a zest for life, and a positive and optimistic attitude.
A Mysterious Disappearance and a Tragic Discovery
Dawson Hartwig went on a weekend trip with seven of his friends to Lake Arrowhead, a popular resort area in the San Bernardino Mountains. They rented a cabin near the lake, and planned to have fun and relax. On Friday, January 27, around 5 p.m., Dawson told his friends that he was going for a walk by himself, and left the cabin. He did not take his cellphone, wallet, keys, or jacket with him. He was wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes.
He did not return to the cabin that night, and his friends became worried. They searched for him in the nearby area, but could not find him. They contacted the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station the next morning, around 10:45 a.m., and reported him missing. They also posted his photo and information on social media, and asked for help from the public.
A massive search and rescue operation was launched, involving the sheriff’s department, the fire department, the California Highway Patrol, and the U.S. Forest Service. More than 100 personnel, including divers, helicopters, dogs, and drones, were deployed to look for Dawson. The search area covered the lake, the forest, and the roads. The weather was cold and snowy, and the visibility was poor.
The search continued throughout Saturday and Sunday, but there was no sign of Dawson. His family and friends prayed and hoped for his safe return, and thanked the searchers for their efforts. They also received support and condolences from many people, including local officials, celebrities, and strangers.
On Sunday, January 29, around midnight, the sheriff’s dive team, assisted by the fire department, checked an area near a dock on the lake. They found Dawson’s body in 30 feet of water, about 100 yards from the shore. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was recovered and taken to the coroner’s office for an autopsy.
A Shocking and Unexplained Death
The cause of death of Dawson Hartwig was determined to be drowning, according to the coroner’s report. However, the manner of death was undetermined, meaning that it was unclear whether it was accidental, suicidal, or homicidal. There was no evidence of foul play, trauma, or intoxication. There was also no indication of why Dawson went into the water, or how long he was submerged.
The death of Dawson Hartwig was a shock and a sorrow for his family, friends, and community. He was mourned and remembered as a young man who had a bright future ahead of him, and who touched many lives with his love and joy. His father, Mark Hartwig, posted a tribute to his son on Twitter, saying that “Dawson was a man among men. His love of others made the world a better place. Family loved him deeply & will miss him dearly.” He also used the hashtag #LoveLikeDawson, which became a trend among Dawson’s supporters.
A memorial service was held for Dawson on February 4, 2017, at the Packinghouse Christian Fellowship in Redlands, California. More than 2,000 people attended the service, which was also live-streamed online. The service featured music, prayers, and eulogies from Dawson’s family and friends, who shared their memories and stories of him. They also celebrated his faith, his passion, and his legacy.
Dawson Hartwig’s cause of death was a mystery that may never be solved. He left behind a void that can never be filled. He was, and still is, a son, a brother, a friend, and a hero.