Body of missing 669 captain found in Laos

Avner Bardugo, 25, disappeared Friday while kayaking down the dark and muddy Mekong River.

The body of Avner Bardugo, the 25-year-old captain from the Israel Air Force's elite 669 Search and Rescue Unit who disappeared in Laos on Friday, was found on Monday morning. Bardugo disappeared while kayaking down the dark and muddy Mekong River. His body was spotted by a fisherman from one of the nearby villages. Five of Bardugo's comrades from his unit flew to Laos hours after he was reported missing to begin a search and rescue mission for him. The soldiers had their work cut out, as thick jungle covers the banks of the river, which runs from China all the way through Southeast Asia, feeding into the South China Sea. Bardugo, from the northern town of Ramat Yishai, was on a six-week leave from the army with a friend when his kayak hit a rock and overturned. The friend, also from 669, was able to make it to shore, and alerted authorities - in Laos and in Israel - of the incident. Bardugo's family was informed of his disappearance shortly afterwards, after a search and rescue mission led by a local team was already underway. Avner Bardugo is "the kind of person who just helps others," his mother, Rama, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, prior to his body's discovery. Bardugo's military service speaks for itself. After finishing his mandatory stint in the Air Force, he tried out for both 669 and General Staff's elite reconnaissance unit (Sayeret Matkal). "He was accepted to both," his mother said. "But 669 accepted him without any preconditions, so he went there and was extremely satisfied with his decision. He has always taken it upon himself to be a leader and lend a hand to those in need, so it just fit." "He had been working extremely hard in the army," Rama continued. "He just finished his tour as a company commander, and he finally got a chance to take a little time off, so he went to Laos to clear his mind a bit, before coming back and starting back with 669." Rama also explained that after Bardugo's father passed away nine years ago, he took over the job of raising his four siblings, helping out around the house and easing the burden on his mom. "That's Avner," his mother said. "He's the kind of guy that picks up hitchhikers without thinking twice - no matter who they are. He just stops and gives them a ride."