Search called off for Damian and Evan McManus, Minnesota father and son missing in Echo Lake area

Officials: No new leads after 4-day search

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. - The search was called off Wednesday for a missing father and son from Minnesota who disappeared eight days ago while hiking near Echo Lake.

After four days of searching without success, Steve Wilson of Alpine Rescue Team said that his team and the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office decided at 4 p.m. to call off the search for Damian McManus, 51, and Evan McManus, 18, of St. Louis Park, Minn.

Nothing was found during Wednesday's search, Wilson said. If new information comes in, there could be a new search, he added.

"The search has been thorough and comprehensive and it is in the judgment of the professionals that they have done all they can and they believe that they could not have survived," family friend Andrea Bouzrara posted on the family's Facebook page.

The McManuses were last heard from on April 2, authorities said.

Their snow-covered car, a maroon Ford Edge, was found in the Echo Lake parking lot on Sunday. Searchers found a receipt in the Ford showing the pair had breakfast at Denny's in Lakewood on the morning of Wednesday, April 2.

The cell phones for the pair sent their last pings the same day near Echo Lake, according to Alpine Rescue's Howard Paul.

Paul said cell phone data from the Air Force coordination center showed the last ping from one man's phone came at 3 p.m. on April 2, the other man's phone last pinged at 7:20 p.m. Paul said officials don't know if the cell phone batteries died or if the phones were turned off.

Friends and family members encouraged everyone to keep their hopes up on a Facebook page called "Missing: Damian and Evan McManus." https://www.facebook.com/groups/302383249916629

"We can and must collectively keep the hope for Damian and for Evan," a woman wrote in a post that mentioned the sheriff's office suspending the search.

It had snowed in the Echo Lake area from Wednesday, April 2, the day the men arrived at the lake, through Saturday, and the father and son could have faced 2 to 3 feet of snow, searchers said.

Snowmobiles, ATVs and a helicopter along with people on skis and snowshoes were used in the search.

Alpine Rescue's Bill Barwick said searchers were challenged in knowing where to look, because they only have vague details on where the pair planned to go.

"We have no idea of what kind of gear they might have," Barwick said.

Evan McManus had told his girlfriend, "We're going to scale a peak." But, he didn't say what peak, Barwick said.

The father and son were due back from a camping trip on Sunday. They had driven to Colorado from Minnesota and planned to stop and hike along the way as part of their father-son trip for spring break, family friends say.

"Damien and Evan decided to take a boys trip," Bouzrara told 7NEWS by phone. "Just take an impromptu boys trip and take a car ride out west and do some hiking and stopped a few places along the way."

The two men were reported missing by Damian McManus' wife and Evan's twin sister, who returned home Sunday from a trip of their own in Mexico. They arrived at the search area Monday afternoon.

The search area was above 10,000 feet and included the start of the highest paved road in the United States -- to 14,265-foot Mount Evans. The road is drifted over with snow and closed in the winter but numerous hiking trails emanate from the parking lot where the road is closed.

Barwick said there are several scenarios for what may have happened to the pair:

--They dug a snow cave and have taken shelter into it.

--They succumbed to hypothermia and were covered by the heavy snowfall.

--They were victims of an avalanche.

Searchers will return to the area from time to time, as the snow melts in the coming months, to continue the search.

Bouzrara posted a statement from the family Wednesday on their Facebook page:

The McManus family wants to express their deep gratitude for all of those who were involved in the search for their loved ones. They have also been encouraged and held up by all of the love and prayers from all over the world. Katherine and Lauren are comforted in this time of great loss by all of you and by their faith in God. Please continue to pray for strength of spirit and surround them with love.

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