SAN JUAN COUNTY, Colo. – Search and rescue efforts for a Utah man who was reported missing a week ago after he was overdue from a hike in the San Juan National Forest have been temporarily suspended due to weather, officials said Thursday.
Though severe weather, increased lightning activity and flash flood conditions have been a major concern for the safety of the search personnel for several days, the Trinity Peaks search operation for 22-year-old Daniel Lamthach, of Salt Lake City, was suspended Wednesday after a Flood Watch was issued for the San Juan Mountain region. The watch is in effect through 10 p.m. Thursday.
Lamthach was last seen July 17 at the Molas Lake area and planned a trail run, for which he was lightly prepared, according to officials from the Office of Emergency Management of San Juan County. He was also unprepared for an overnight stay in the wilderness, they added.
Hikers found Lamthach’s phone on the Elk Creek Trail heading towards the Trinity Peaks area a day later.
Three days later, on July 21, Lamthach was reported missing by a concerned friend and the search and rescue operation began just before 6 p.m. that night with helicopter support from Flight For Life. His vehicle was located in the parking lot of Molas Lake trailhead.
Over the next several days, more than a dozen crews have been searching for Lamthach through remote wilderness areas, and a review of his disappearance with the Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSAR) was conducted to identify any gaps and discuss the use of teams from around the state for future searches.
So far, no signs of Lamthach have been detected.
To date, 250 personnel hours have been dedicated to the search, with 600 hours dedicated to the search, according to OEM officials.
In the next couple of days, search crews plan to access some of the more remote drainages in the Weminuche Wilderness by utilizing the Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad for transport, officials said in a news release Thursday.
“I would like to extend my condolences to the family of Daniel, who at this time has not yet been found. We have had to suspend operations due to severe weather and the danger it presents to our teams. I would also like to thank Flight For Life, specifically Lifeguard 5, out of Durango, the Grizzly Peak Fire Team, the District Helitack Team, CSAR, La Plata County Search & Rescue, and all of the resources used and offered by surrounding agencies.
“Finally, on this sad occasion, I would like to thank and commend the people on the ground, who went out day after day, and overnight, in extreme weather and difficult terrain, to search and give us the best chance of finding the missing subject. We are privileged to have some of the finest mountain rescue technicians in the State, and without their skill, expertise, and dedication, we would not have been able to even approach the area due to the conditions and terrain,” said Tyler George Director, of the Silverton Medical Rescue, in a prepared statement.
Officials remind people to always be prepared when traveling in the background, especially alone, and to leave search and rescue operations to local teams, as independent searches can cause more harm than good.
“Make sure you have proper gear to stay overnight, carry devices to call for help such as a Garmin InReach or SPOT device and, most importantly, communicate your route/trip plan as well as expected return time with someone,” Melissa Flynn, with Silverton Medical Rescue, said. “Even if you are planning to go on a simple day hike or run and you are a very experienced mountain adventurer, these mountains are rugged and unpredictable. The more we know, the more we can help.”