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fourth day of search for missing hiker unsuccessful; search mission scaled back


Search and rescue teams on Wednesday, the fourth day of the operation to find missing hiker Gene George, 64, were unable to locate any trace of the man despite the efforts today of 45 hikers from Arapahoe and Chaffee counties, a search dog team, and the assistance of a US Army National Guard helicopter.

The missing hiker, from the Cleveland, Ohio area, was last heard from last Wednesday, September 18 when he spoke by telephone with his girlfriend in Cleveland.  Authorities have reason to believe Mr. George hiked to the summit of Mount Columbia the following day and spent the night in his Buena Vista motel room that evening.  His movements after that are not certain, although other hikers reported seeing a man fitting Mr. George’s description who reached the summit of Mount Harvard on Saturday. 

Mr. George was reported missing on Sunday when he failed to check out of his motel room as scheduled.   A search mission was begun the same day after Mr. George’s car was discovered parked and locked at the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead.

Undersheriff John Spezze, the overall incident commander, said that absent additional clues as to the man’s location, the active field search operation would be suspended as of late today.  Informational posters with the man’s photograph have been prepared and will be distributed to local outdoor sports retailers and posted at the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead.  Although the search mission has been scaled back, investigation into Mr. George’s disappearance will continue and efforts to locate him will resume in the event new evidence surfaces.

Search efforts over the four days involved over one hundred volunteers from seven counties, three helicopters, one fixed wing aircraft, several dog teams, two horseback teams, two mules, and numerous items of specialized equipment. 

Anyone who might have information concerning the missing hiker is asked to call the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office at 719-539-2596.

1 Comment for this entry

Sheriff Palmer
September 26th, 2013 on 10:58 am

I received this note from one of our search and rescue members. Sheriff Palmer

Hi Pete,
Thought you might want to know: I was part of the site one search team today. About a 1/4 mile from the second bridge near the Mt Harvard trail. a tall dead spruce tree came down in the midst of the team of 12. It landed about 4 feet from me and was coming down on two team members but they luckily rushed away from the tree and were not injured. The tree made a thunderous noise and shook the ground when it landed. There was recent evidence of other trees coming down recently.

The terrain we searched today was very dangerous.