Search continues for missing hiker
He failed to return from a hike late Monday evening
As of Friday morning, Summit County Search and Rescue was still looking for a missing hiker in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Lt. Andrew Wright said crews are mobilizing every morning at around 7 a.m. and are working until sundown in the search for Melvin Heaps, age 74, of Arizona.
At around midnight on Monday, the Sheriff’s Office received a missing person’s report from the family of Heaps after he did not return from a day hike near Crystal Lake. He was last seen on July 31.
Deputies located Heaps’ vehicle at the Crystal Lake Trailhead and immediately began the search. Search and Rescue teams are utilizing dogs, horses and the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter to assist in the search. Other outside agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, Civil Air Patrol of the U.S. Air Force and Wasatch County, have also assisted.
Wright said Heaps’ family addressed the public Thursday night, sharing “hope and a little bit of humor.”
“They are trying to stay positive about this, but they also understand that it is getting concerning the more days that go by,” Wright said. “He (Heaps) is an avid outdoorsman and he was also prepared for what he intended to do. But his backpack was left behind in his van. His wife joked that she was going to scold him when she sees him because he knows better.
“She also shared that he is actually deaf in one ear and wears a hearing aid in the other. She said the battery has most likely died at this point, so he is basically deaf and unable to hear the helicopters that are searching for him,” he said.
Wright said the family understands the difficulties that the terrain presents. He added, “They have been up there searching and they understand how dense it is.”
“There is so much brush and so many trees that have fallen and they understand the extreme challenge that that presents,” Wright said. “We are confident in our abilities to search, but also recognize the challenges we face because of the environment.”
Wright said the family was accompanied on Thursday by Kevin Bardsley, of the Garrett Bardsley Foundation. Bardsley is the father of Garrett Bardsley, an 11-year-old boy who went missing in the Uintas in 2004. He was never found.
“Anytime he (Bardsley) hears of someone who is missing he coordinates a volunteer search group,” Wright said. “He takes it very personally and has invested in these types of searches before. He was very emotional last night and said how important it is to rally behind the family, asking anyone who has the ability to go up and assist in the search.”
Wright said 35 additional volunteers checked in with the Bardsley Foundation Friday morning, bringing the total to at least 55 people who are actively searching. For more information about how to assist in the search, go to http://www.findgarrett.org/missing/melvin-heaps.
“At this point we have not set an end time. With any search, the urgency is there from the beginning and our ultimate goal is to find Melvin,” Wright said. “We plan to exhaust our resources until we find him and, at this point, we don’t have a set deadline of when we plan on ending our search. We just plan on moving forward until the decision is made.”
Heaps is believed to be wearing a long-sleeve shirt, with blue jeans and suspenders. He typically hikes wearing a straw hat. He has brown hair, blue eyes and weighs 175 pounds. He is 5’9”.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Summit County Sheriff’s office at 435-615-3600.
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.