These are my stories as a volunteer member of the Sheriff's Search & Rescue team in Coconino County, Arizona. I'll share what it's like to go from a beginner with a lot to learn to an experienced and, hopefully, valuable member of the team, as well as the missions, trainings, and other activities along the way.
About Coconino County
About Coconino County
Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.
June 10, 2009
I'm referring to the case of Mark Russell Irby, who disappeared from his home in rural Forest Lakes, Arizona, during what was supposed to be a short ATV ride on "The Loop" around the subdivision--something he often did--before he and his wife would return to their home in the city later that morning.
Mr. Irby, last seen wearing a denim shirt, jeans and plastic "Croc" shoes, was not dressed for an extended ride in those winter conditions, and there was no less than 3 feet of snow in the area at the time.
The initial search involved 1,800 hours of manpower on foot and 20 hours by air. No tracks or clues were found.
I wrote about the ongoing, extensive search in January:
1/4/09: 48 Hours And Counting
1/11/09: Where Is Mark?
And again in March, when his ATV was located about 10 miles from his home:
3/17/09: Three Ongoing Searches
And these are some of the latest news reports from the past few days:
From the Arizona Daily Sun: Body Of Missing ATV Rider From Valley Found
From ABC15.com: Body of man missing for months found in Northern Arizona
Here are a series of news releases about this search, from the day after Mr. Irby went missing through the day his remains were located along the shore of Chevelon Canyon Lake: From Project Jason, Assistance for Families of the Missing
I'm waiting to see if more information is released to the public about this case. If I see anything new, I'll post it here. In the meantime, I'm thinking back on the whole thing--what I know of it, anyway--and saying to myself, "I just don't get it." How did he get so far from home?
I feel really sad for Mr. Irby and for his family and friends. I met some of them during the search and really wanted this to, somehow, have a positive outcome. But I'm glad that at least no one has to wonder "Where is Mark?" anymore.
Wow! How did you get involved with search and rescue?
Hi, Diane. I took a look at your website. You take such beautiful photos!
About getting involved with SAR, I wrote an article about it called Becoming A Search & Rescue Volunteer if interested, but basically I went to the Sheriff's office (which is in charge of SAR here), filled out an application, had an interview and then was accepted for the Basic SAR Academy. After I completed that, I got my pager and just jumped right in. I love it! And I'm constantly learning new things, which is very cool.
Anyhow, I could ramble on about it, but that article explains a lot more about SAR and gives resources if people are interested in joining a team in their area.
Thanks for asking!
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