March 15 (UPI) -- A DNA test has confirmed what inspectors suspected a year ago, that the human remains found in steep terrain beneath a Virginia bridge are those of Robert Kovack, a college student who vanished in 1998.
The results came almost a year to the day after the bones were found by construction workers clearing brush beneath the New River Gorge Bridge.
Police said in addition to the confirmation, they now have physical evidence suggesting Kovack, 24, was hit by a vehicle before he fell 800 feet off the bridge.
Kovack's older brother Michael told the Roanoke Times the family is relieved to have at least one of the questions surrounding Michael's disappearance solved, even if what led to his death remains a mystery.
"The questions that are unanswered will probably never be answered -- in all likelihood," Kovack said. "We were fortunate enough to get the big answer, and that was where he was."
Robert Kovack was attending Virginia Tech University in September of 1998 where he was set to graduate with a master's degree in architecture at the end of the school year.
He was last seen on surveillance video at an ATM near the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., on Sept. 18, 1998. He had telephoned his mother, Jacqueline Kovack, earlier in the day to say he was planning on driving to the family home in Oak Hill, W.Va., for a weekend visit, but never arrived.
Two days later, police located Kovack's red Geo Tracker just past the New River Gorge Bridge. The vehicle was operational, but had run out of gas.
Kovack's disappearance sparked a massive manhunt that centered on the rough wooded terrain beneath the bridge. Locals noted the bridge's reputation as a common place for suicides, with more than four dozen bodies recovered there since Kovack's disappearance.
Family and friends remained adamant Kovack would not have committed suicide and showed no indications of depression or mental illness.
Hundreds of police and volunteers aided by helicopters and cadaver dogs searched the area for weeks to no avail. Then, a year ago, workers clearing brush to perform bridge maintenance uncovered the skeletal remains. Police strongly believed it was Kovack after his wallet, driver's license and car keys were also found with the remains.
Though many of those involved in the search expressed surprise they were unable to locate the body despite such a mammoth undertaking officials said the terrain is so dense it was possible the body was simply missed.