BENNINGTON — A man who was the object of a search after police said he fled from the scene of a rollover crash Friday on Route 279 was found dead Monday in a wooded area about 200 yards from the highway.
The body of Hans Heck, 35, of Bennington, was recovered early Monday afternoon, after it was found with the help of a New York State Police helicopter and police K-9 units.
In a release, Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette said police responded around 6:26 p.m. Friday to a crash on Route 279 near the Austin Hill Road overpass.
“Upon arrival, police located a Nissan pickup truck with severe damage,” according to the release. “Several witnesses on scene advised that a male — later identified as [Heck] — had fled the crash scene.”
Police said Heck fled on foot into woods. A BPD K-9 unit “conducted a track of the suspected operator south of Route 279 before the track was lost due to a high fence and dangerous conditions,” the release stated, adding, “The officer remained in the area of the crash scene for approximately two hours.”
Throughout the night, police said, “officers patrolled the area of Route 279 and surrounding roads, but were not able to locate the operator.”
On Sunday, police were contacted by friends and family of Heck, “advising that no one has had contact with Heck since the night of the crash. Bennington Police Officers returned to the scene and searched the area for Heck until after dark. The search was once again terminated.”
Police said that on Monday, Bennington officers, with the help of Heck’s family and friends and other agencies, began searching the last known area for Heck.
At that point, the search involved K-9 units from Bennington Police, Winhall Police, Williamstown (Mass.) Police and the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department.
They were also assisted by a game warden from the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and Vermont State Police, who helped in the recovery.
The New York State Police Aviation Unit was contacted, and a helicopter located an area of interest, police said, and officers entered a wooded area and located Heck, who was dead. The body was found in a heavily wooded area approximately 200 yards from Route 279 and was carried on a stretcher up a steep bank to the highway.
The location was roughly between the Austin Hill Road overpass and the intersection of Route 279 and Route 9 in New York.
The Bennington Fire Department assisted in the removal of the body, which police said will be transported to the Vermont Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.
Doucette said at the scene that he didn’t want to speculate about the cause of death before receiving a report from the medical examiner.