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Search and rescue mission for missing Utah man suspended

Indefinite hold put on efforts after no trace found of Daniel Lamthach
Search and rescue crews have spent days searching the Trinity Peaks area for Daniel Lamthach, 22, who went missing July 17. He was last seen in the area of Molas Lake. Operations have been suspended barring new information about his whereabouts. (Courtesy of San Juan County Office of Emergency Management)

The San Juan County Office of Emergency Management announced Monday that a search and rescue mission to find a Salt Lake City man lost in the Molas Lake area has been suspended until further notice.

Daniel Lamthach, 22, went missing July 17 after going on a day hike in the Molas Lake area. His phone was found by hikers and his car was discovered by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Office of Emergency Management.

About 11 agencies participated in the search and rescue, including Lifeguard 5 out of Durango, Grizzly Peak Fire Team, District Helitack Team, Colorado Search and Rescue, and La Plata County Search & Rescue.

Daniel Lamthach, 22, of Salt Lake City, has been missing since July 17, according to San Juan County Office of Emergency Management. (Courtesy of San Juan Office of Emergency Management)

Deanne Gallegos, spokeswoman for emergency management, said until new information becomes available, the search for Lamthach is on hold.

Search and rescue teams have dealt with “treacherous, arduous, rugged” terrain in the Molas Lake area, she said.

“There was lightning and thunderstorms and hail and cold temperatures at night,” she said. “Flash floods and high waters. It was very treacherous, wilderness terrain.”

Lamthach’s vehicle was the first sign of the man the Sheriff’s Office found after he had been reported missing, she said.

Just a few days earlier, on July 18, hikers found a cellphone on the Elk Creek Trail at the Vestal Peak trail confluence, about 3½ miles from the Animas River, that was later determined to belong to Lamthach, she said.

Search and rescue crews have been working in the Trinity Peaks area, “one of the most remote and rugged backcountry wilderness terrain (areas) within the San Juans,” Gallegos said.

Lamthach is described as having long black hair, being about 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 130 pounds and wearing glasses.

A concerned friend of Lamthach’s reported his absence to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office on July 21. On July 17, the last time Lamthach was seen, he had decided to go on a day hike, although he was unprepared for an overnight stay in the wilderness, according to a news release.

Wildland safety

Gallegos reminded people to plan accordingly and notify friends or family of plans before venturing into the backcountry.

She said having someone aware of plans could make a world of difference.

“You simply need to have a travel plan,” she said “You must communicate with friends, family or neighbors where you are going, when you’re going, when you expect to be out, and last but not least, what to do if you don’t hit those time markers.”

She suggested leaving a note on the dashboard of the car after parking and venturing into the wilderness.

“The first thing the sheriff’s department does is find the vehicle,” she said. “At the visitor’s center, we have a rule there. ... We want the information in the dash.”

In a news release last week, San Juan County Undersheriff Steve Lowrance said members of the public might feel moved to aid in search and rescue efforts, but uncoordinated search operations can do more harm than good. He urged people to allow professionals to conduct searches.

Gallegos said even though active searches have been postponed, search and rescue teams are seeking information about Lamthach’s whereabouts and will resume the search if they get a lead.


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