Missing male, Patrick Higgins, in his early 50’s, from Maryland. Patrick was part of aleadershipretreat with a group of 31 men who were camping in Hell Canyon, which they call Solitude Canyon. Patrick was out on a solitude hike, as were the other participants, and was due back at camp by 17:00 Tuesday 22 July 2008. When he failed to return, the rest of the party looked for him that evening and into the night. When he was not located by the following morning, Wednesday 23 July, LCSO was contacted. Patrick was part of a leadership retreat with a group of 31 men who were camping in Hell Canyon, which they call Solitude Canyon. Patrick was out on a solitude hike, as were the other participants, and was due back at camp by 17:00 Tuesday 22 July 2008. When he failed to return, the rest of the party looked for him that evening and into the night. When he was not located by the following morning, Wednesday 23 July, LCSO was contacted. Patrick had been in the area with the retreat since Saturday 19 July, but this was his first trip into the woods, and thoughhewas not familiar with this area, he did have the color photocopy topo map provided by the retreat. Patrick had been in the area with the retreat since Saturday 19 July, but this was his first trip into the woods, and though he was not familiar with this area, he did have the color photocopy topo map provided by the retreat. Patrick was thought to have a backpack with matches, water, extra clothing, whistle, and wearing a jacket, fleece, t-shirt, jeans, hiking boots and hat. It was believed he had experience as a hiker. Limited medical issues, which were not believed to be a factor in this search.
The first sortie was flown Wednesday afternoon, after the Sun had descended low enough to cast Hell Canyon into shadow. Crew: Von Campbell MP, Bill O'Connor MO, Aaron Miller MS The second sortie was flown Thursday morning, while the Sun was low enough to keep Hell Canyon in shadow. The third sortie was flown after the Sun had ascended enough to cast light into Hell Canyon, so Patrick was able to signal this aircraft. Crew: Brian Smiley MP, Dick Sargent MO, Aref Deselov MS The fourth sortie was flown to maintain high bird radio coverage for the CAP and SAR teams that were walking the subject out to a road.
The third (find) sortie was piloted by Brian Smiley, who commented: He was impressed with Patrick’s ability to target the aircraft and follow it through the banks and turns. This was told to Patrick during the interview at ICP, to which he replied: “I was motivated!” Brian also noted that, even knowing where Patrick’s camp was, the aircrew could only see Patrick from a narrow wedge from due west. All other views were blocked by the trees.
In addition, CAP supplied ground teams that were assigned to two search areas that were south of Patrick’s ultimate location. Thus, they were able to hike to Patrick’s location and assist with the walkout. Due to the steep side-hill walking necessitated by the terrain, one of the senior members aggravated his weak ankle condition, and this slowed the pace of the group. The original destination was chosen because it was the closest place the Colorado Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter could land. However, the walkout developed into a 5 hour ordeal, which would put them arrival at the helispot just before sunset. This was beyond the CANG crew’s duty day, so the helicopter departed early.
Information obtained from Patrick, when interviewed at ICP: He used pink flagging to mark his path to his solitude spot, but ran out of it. When it was time to return, he elected to follow a different route. Said Patrick: “My ego got the better of me.” Once he realized he was lost, he remained in the same location. He decided not to climb out of the drainage to a ridge top because he was tired and concerned about leaving his water source. He made two fires to create smoke, which did not rise up in a plume but hovered low in the drainage, likely due to prevailing weather. Had one been a flaming fire, it is possible the first sortie would have seen it. He used charcoal from his fire to filter drinking water from the creek.
Information obtained from Patrick, when interviewed at ICP (continued): He heard horns of searchers on Wednesday, and he blew his whistle, but since he was low in the drainage, the sound probably did not carry very far. He saw the search plane on Wednesday and figured they were looking for him, since the plane was flying a grid pattern, so this was a psychological boost for him. The mirror he used to signal the plane was only about the size of a quarter, like the multi- function survival aid pictured here. Patrick had one just like this slung around his neck during this interview at ICP. Other than being tired and dehydrated, he appeared fine.