By Associated Press - Monday, July 6, 2015

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) - The death of an 82-year-old North Dakota woman who went missing almost four years ago was an accident, authorities concluded Monday after her vehicle and remains were discovered in northwest Idaho.

Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost said the prosthetic knee belonging to Florence Dumontet, of Ardoch, was found Wednesday by hikers in Idaho and prompted authorities to launch a search for the woman, who disappeared while driving to Washington state in October 2011. Authorities in Shoshone County, Idaho, used a helicopter crew, which spotted Dumontet’s vehicle off Interstate 90. Some of her remains were later found next to her pickup.

“It’s very, very steep terrain,” Rost said of the area where the pickup and remains were found. “It’s almost a straight drop-off off the highway and it took 1,700 feet of cable to get that vehicle wedged out of the pulley that it was in.”

Dumontet was last seen on a security camera at a gas station in Missoula, Montana. Family members at the time said she was on an annual 2,000-mile, 20-hour trek to visit her children in Shelton, Washington. She was driving a black Lincoln luxury pickup and was traveling with her apricot poodle. Her family has said she had a heart condition.

Rost said no signs of foul play have been found and the incident is being treated as an accident.

Grand Forks Sgt. Dan Hillebrand, who has been responsible for the case since it was opened, said authorities suspect Dumontet was ejected from the pickup when it accidentally left the interstate in an area where road conditions were icy at the time of the incident and accidents are frequent.

Rost said Dumontent’s daughter had previously expressed that her mother was “notorious for not wearing her seatbelt.”

“So, I would say that if that was the case, she was probably ejected out of the vehicle.”

Rost said the prosthetic left knee included a serial number that was used to link it to Dumontet through a database. Rost said the knee was found some distance “away from the vehicle,” while her skull and other remains were found right by the vehicle.

Hillebrand said a suitcase was found inside the vehicle, but it is yet to be searched.

Montana authorities had done several searches for Dumontet over the years with no success.

Dumontet’s immediate relatives could not be reached Monday for comment.

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