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Search efforts called off after failing to locate 79-year-old hiker

Mission status has been changed to search and recovery
Durango man Jim Shadid, 79, went missing Sunday while hiking west of Purgatory Resort, according to the La Plata County Sheriff's Office. (Courtesy)

Ground and air search efforts have been suspended for Jim Shadid, the 79-year-old hiker who went missing on Sept. 3 near Elbert Creek.

La Plata County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Chris Burke said that decision was made because teams spent eight days searching for Shadid and still hadn’t found evidence of his whereabouts.

The status of the mission has been changed to search and recovery.

“We’re still doing everything we can to locate him like he’s still alive,” Burke said Tuesday, despite the change in status.

However, officials have not completely given up on the search.

A search team consisting of three dog teams will camp Wednesday morning in an area that is technical and hasn’t been used for hiking, he said.

“The teams will set up camp on Wednesday several miles from Jim Shadid’s vehicle,” Burke said in an email Monday night.

About 25 people from La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan and Montezuma counties’ search and rescue teams will be involved in a search that will likely begin Saturday or Sunday.

Burke said there were about 100 volunteers involved in the search and rescue efforts over the last week.

The search team will focus in an area not yet searched, several miles from where Shadid’s vehicle was parked on Hermosa Creek Road. Burke said weather could impact search effort .

Shadid went missing after starting the hike around 11 a.m. for what was supposed to be a 90-minute round trip to scout elk. He was in contact with his wife via radio communication, but was not carrying a cellphone with him at the time he went missing.

Family members also told Burke that he was not carrying a backpack when he went missing.

Shadid alerted his wife when he was about 20 minutes away from finishing the hike, but never returned home.

A website started by the family called findjimnow.com reported that the mission had officially become a search and recovery mission on Monday.

According to the website, a lifeline helicopter, multiple people on horse and foot, two bloodhound dogs and Hotshot firefighters searching different areas. Gunshots were reported around the time the helicopter was out, and the area where they were reported to be heard was investigated by the Hotshot team on Sept. 7.

Burke said officials involved in the search could not confirm if the gunshots heard on Sept. 7 were from Shadid. He also said it was uncertain whether Shadid was carrying a firearm on him when he was hiking.

“As tragic as this unexpected event is, there is something so beautiful thinking of our Papa resting in the mountains that he so dearly loved. A place where he has spent the last 20 years hiking, skiing, hunting and backpacking,” the family wrote on the website’s homepage Monday. “Through our mourning, we know in our hearts that Papa is in his happy place, somewhere up there, his body returning to the Earth.”

Burke said on Tuesday it’s “just a tragedy for this family.”

“Search and rescue is doing everything we can to get him located,” he said.


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