Body of Missing Israeli Found in Laos River, Three Days After Kayak Accident

The body of Captain Avner Bardugo, an officer in the elite Air Force 669 rescue unit, was found yesterday along a tributary of the Mekong River in Laos, after his kayak capsized last Friday.

A Laotian fisherman reportedly found Bardugo's body near the shore, about 4 kilometers downstream from the site of the accident. He informed local authorities, who told the Israeli search team, which identified the body. Bardugo's body is scheduled to arrive in Israel today.

Bardugo, 25, of Ramat Yishai, is survived by his mother, an older sister and three younger brothers. Nine years ago, his father passed away.

He had taken six weeks of leave, and had been in the Far East since early July. He had completed a stint as the officer in charge of the elite unit's training, and was to receive a new position in the IAF upon his return.

His traveling companion survived the accident and helped coordinate the search effort. Bardugo's comrades from 669 arrived in order to help find their comrade. Bardugo's family also chartered a helicopter to to assist in the search.

A childhood friend of Bardugo from Ramat Yishai, Assa Morad, explained since his father died, "Avner took care of his small brothers, made sure they were studying properly, and spent every weekend with them."

"Avner's dreams revolved around helping others. He wanted to continue in the military and study within the army, and he said he would return to civilian life as a teacher and principal. He wanted to change things and inculcate values that would make the world a better place. We feel God took our angel who wanted improve the world," said Morad.

Bardugo's mother, Rama, described her son as "a friend to everyone and a true leader and survivor."