A man, who went missing after setting out on a hiking trip, has been found dead in Arizona with his loyal dog beside him. The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office revealed on Wednesday, that their days-long search for 74-year-old Donald Hayes had finally come to a tragic end.
“Mr. Hayes was found in a rugged area that had been difficult for searchers to reach, but they were able to do so this afternoon, allowing them to locate the victim,” wrote police in a statement posted on Facebook. They noted that the hiker’s dog named Ranger remained with his owner and was found alive that day.
“Mr. Hayes’ dog Ranger who was with him on the hike, was found alive having remained with the victim. Ranger was seen on scene by a volunteer who was a veterinarian and was taken to a local animal hospital for treatment,” it continued. According to NBC affiliate KPNX, rescuers administered oxygen and fluids to the dog, who “was more than likely very dehydrated and malnourished,” before being moved.
The resident of Prescott Valley was last seen on May 13 on a Mingus Mountain trailhead called Woodchute near FS 102. Per Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, the hiker called his wife on the afternoon of May 13 to inform her that “he and his dog Ranger were lost but he wasn’t sure where.”
Authorities managed to contact him around 2 p.m. that day and instructed him to remain at his location until a rescue team arrived there. However, Hayes “stated that he did not want to wait for a rescue and that he was ‘continuing down a ravine.'” They added, “He stated he was unsure of what ravine, but told Forest Patrol he thought he was moving northwest and saw Williamson Valley.”
At that point, Hayes told forest patrol officers that he “still had food and water” and informed them that he was “turning his phone off to save the battery.” When authorities tried to reach him again, they could not locate his phone on GPS.
Sheriff’s spokesperson Kristin Greene said that Hayes’ body was found about six miles from the trailhead and that it would have taken twice the time to hike that distance given the terrain. “He was definitely far, far away from civilization,” Greene told CBS News.
Police spent the weekend looking for Hayes and ultimately found his body. “YCSO Backcountry Search and Rescue (SAR), Verde SAR, search dogs, the Sheriff’s Volunteer OHV Unit, 4×4 Unit and Jeep Posse personnel along with a DPS Ranger helicopter searched on foot, vehicle and air for days trying to locate Mr. Hayes but had trouble due to the difficult terrain and the vast area to be searched,” read the Facebook post.
Sheriff David Rhodes thanked all the teams who tirelessly looked for Hayes. “I thank all the volunteer search and rescue teams and others who gave of their time for 6 days to locate the victim and bring him home. Our searchers utilized every tool at their disposal to find Mr. Hayes and never gave up,” said Rhodes. “Our condolences go out to Mr. Hayes’ family, and we wish the outcome could have been different.”
Cover image source: YouTube Screenshot | 12News