A human foot was discovered by a group of teens along the shore of Sasamat Lake in Port Moody last weekend.
A school group at Belcarra's Sasamat Outdoor Centre first noticed a boot floating a few metres offshore Friday morning.
Bronco Cathcart, executive director of the Sasamat Outdoor Centre, said the teens recovered the boot the next morning.
"It had floated closer to shore and they pulled it in with sticks or something that they found," Cathcart said.
"They found a sock in the boot. When they pulled out the sock, they found bones in the sock. They reported it to their teacher right away."
They then notified the authorities, and the BC Coroners Service is now investigating.
On Monday morning, an autopsy confirmed human bones were encased in the sock in the size 12 black Cougar-brand hiking boot.
Coroner Stephen Fonseca said foul play is not suspected.
"All observations by the pathologist at this time indicate that the foot has naturally separated from the rest of the leg," Fonseca told The NOW.
"There's no tool marks or impressions to indicate that the foot has been forcibly removed."
The joint tends to naturally separate through decomposition and aquatic scavenging, he said. Depending on the circumstances, this process could take anywhere from a few months to many years.
"This could be the consequence of something that happened many, many years ago. So we're using the production dates of the shoes to define a timeline. We'll use that timeline to look for any missing persons that may be associated with Sasamat Lake," said Fonseca, manager of the identification and disaster response unit.
"All indications are that that shoe has certainly been in that environment for some time, and we would expect that it could be as old as 10 years or even more."
Last weekend's discovery marks the ninth foot found in southwestern B.C. in the past four years.
The Port Moody case, however, is different than the eight others, Fonseca noted.
This is the only foot found in fresh water rather than saltwater, and it is also the only foot found in a hiking boot rather than a running shoe.
So far, the coroners' service has been able to identify six of the previously found feet. None of them are thought to be associated with foul play.
In the future, Fonseca believes even more feet will be found.
"We expect that people will continue to find feet in shoes on beaches because we are surrounded by a lot of waterways and we have the ocean beside us. The reality is we do have a number of water-related deaths, so we're likely to find more in the future," he said.
"As shoes become more buoyant, that's the only source of remains that we're likely to find in many water-related cases. The rest may surface for short periods of time and then sink again. Then it's a case of the body just breaking down naturally and whatever is buoyant or encased in something that is buoyant - like these running shoes or hikers - they will come back to the surface."
Port Moody Const. Bill Kim said the local police department is investigating the case in conjunction with the BC Coroners Service.
The B.C. Police Missing Persons Unit is also involved in the investigation, along with the E-Peregal task force and the RCMP behaviour sciences group Rapid ID program.
They will try to identify the foot through DNA tests and comparisons with data banks of missing persons.
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