SAVANNAH — A Fort Benning soldier missing 12 days before his body was discovered in a downtown hotel died of accidental injuries caused by spinning parts of an industrial-sized air conditioner, according to an autopsy conducted Saturday.

The autopsy confirmed the body was that of Spc. Robert Hornbeck, 23, of Lapeer, Mich. A maintenance worker at the DeSoto Hilton hotel found Hornbeck’s body Friday inside a large piece of air-conditioning equipment after guests complained of a foul odor in the lobby.

“Evidently he got close to one of those and the fan caught his arm, which led to him not being able to get out the building,” said Kirk Hornbeck, the soldier’s uncle in Savannah. “ “At least we have closure and we can get him home and do the proper things to honor him.”

Hornbeck was last seen outside the hotel April 16 after a late night of bar-hopping with an Army buddy. He answered his cell phone briefly after his father arrived just after 3 a.m. to give him a ride. He said, “Dad, I’m on the stairs,” then the connection went dead.

An autopsy performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Savannah determined Hornbeck died after being struck by a large, spinning blower wheel accessible through a maintenance door, said Lt. Mike Wilkins, a spokesman for Savannah-Chatham County police.

“At this time, they don’t believe there’s any evidence of any kind of foul play,” Wilkins said. “At this point, it appears to be an accident. The GBI medical examiner came to the scene and concurred with our investigators.”

Wilkins said police had not determined how Hornbeck got into the hotel maintenance area or what he was doing there. He was not a guest at the hotel. Blood toxicology tests were also being performed. Hornbeck’s father had previously said he suspects his son was intoxicated.

“I think maybe he’d in fact had too much to drink,” Kirk Hornbeck said Saturday. “He might’ve thought he was going out the right door to the outside and got turned around inside the building and ended up in the wrong spot.”

Hornbeck’s father was traveling back to Michigan on Saturday, where the family planned to bury Hornbeck with military honors, his uncle said.

Hornbeck came to Savannah to spend Easter weekend with his father and stepmother. He had returned to Fort Benning in January from a yearlong tour in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division.

Hornbeck was preparing to leave the Army at the end of April and return to the University of Michigan, where he studied psychology for two years before joining the Army in 2004.

He also had a wedding date to marry his college sweetheart in July.

The Hornbecks spent nearly two weeks combing Savannah’s downtown historic district. They posted fliers with Robert Hornbeck’s photo in store windows, took out a full-page ad last Sunday in the Savannah Morning News, and offered a $10,000 reward.

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