Monday, April 13, 2020

Hiker rescued after four days lost, one person found dead

MESA COUNTY, Colo – Smoke from a fire helped rescue a hiker and two dogs who spent several days lost in the canyons between Glade Park and Rabbit Valley looking for help for his friend, who died after falling into a canyon.

On Friday, April 10, 2020, at approximately 1:30 p.m., a group of four hikers saw smoke and heard a person yelling in Mee Canyon. The group had no way to reach the hiker who needed help, so they immediately called 911.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Mesa County Search and Rescue, and Bureau of Land Management quickly responded and began looking for the lost hiker using the GSP coordinates from the 911 call.

Centurylink’s helicopter flew Mesa County Search and Rescue crews into the canyon due to the remote location and rough terrain. As they neared where the group of hikers had called 911, the helicopter crew spotted a smoke column across the canyon and the hiker waving his arms. Medical personnel treated the individual. He was physically exhausted and dehydrated, but otherwise in good health.

Mesa County Search and Rescue
 at Mee Canyon Trailhead
The 31-year-old hiker told deputies he and a friend are from out of state and had spent the last several weeks visiting national parks. Earlier this week, they decided to go on a short hike in Knowles Canyon with their two dogs when they became lost. They had day packs with water and snacks but didn’t have a cell phone signal to call for help.

After two and a half days of hiking, the hiker told rescuers his 32-year-old friend fell into a canyon with his two dogs. Unable to check on his companion and not knowing the extent of injuries, he continued hiking for another day and a half to seek help. After running out of food and water, he used a lighter to start a fire to signal for help. A decision rescue crews determined ultimately saved his life.

The Mee Canyon Trailhead had been closed up until that morning. It’s scheduled to be open the Friday before Easter, the morning a group of four hikers decided to use the trail. Had the gate not been opened for day hikers, the individual may not have been found.

He was found approximately four miles from the Knowles Canyon trailhead where their hike began four days earlier. However, because of the topography and rugged terrain, rescue crews estimate he had hiked at least ten to fifteen miles before he was rescued.

View of Mee Canyon
from Centurylink's helicopter
Based on the information the he provided, rescue crews found where his friend and two dog had fallen roughly one mile from the initial rescue site in Mee Canyon. Unfortunately, the 32-year-old man was found deceased. The Mesa County Coroner’s Office reports he died instantly when he fell approximately 60 to 80 feet down a slickrock formation. The cause of death is multiple blunt force injuries and the manner of death is accident.

Search and rescue crews also located the two dogs, which had minor injuries. Mesa County Animal Services, with the help of the Grand Valley Veterinary Emergency Center and CenturyLink’s helicopter, assisted in rescuing the dogs.

The two-day rescue and recovery mission involved more than 30 search and rescue volunteers, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Land Management, Centurylink, Mesa County Animal Services, veterinarians from Grand Valley Veterinary Emergency Center, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate program, and the Mesa County Coroner’s Office.

Mesa County Search and Rescue
 at Mee Canyon Trailhead
Our thoughts are with the family and those affected by this tragic incident. Please remember when recreating to tell someone where you plan to hike, when you plan to return, and always take supplies such as food, water, and a navigational instrument such as a map, compass or GPS device.