Search Continues for Missing Hiker in San Juan National Forest

The search continues for a hiker who was last seen on July 16th in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado. Daniel Lamthach, 22, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was reported missing by a friend on Thursday, July 21st when he did not return from a hike. Search and Rescue operations began on July 22nd. Officials suspect that Lamthatch was heading towards the Trinity Peaks area.  His vehicle was found in the Molas Lake Parking area. San Juan County Office of Emergency Management officials said he seemed unprepared to spend an extended time in the wilderness. Lamthatch’s phone was found by hikers on July 18th on the Elk Creek Trail, a section of the Colorado Trail near the CT/CDT junction.

Poster from Office of Emergency Management, San Juan County Colorado Facebook page.

Officials are conducting both ground and aerial searches. Rescuers have had to pause their search several times due to nightfall or weather. Search crews have been staying in the wilderness overnight since Monday, July 25th.

Officials also remind hikers always to take proper precautions when in the backcountry. Bring emergency gear, including a satellite communicator or PLB, and always communicate your plans and expected return to others. Additionally, officials caution against individuals attempting search operations. “Taking on an independent search operation can cause more issues than the good that is intended, especially when it is in an unknown wilderness area to the group. Please allow the local emergency teams to manage such operations as they have the skill sets to do so,” stated Steve Lowrance, San Juan County Undersheriff.


A Timeline of Events

According to the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management Facebook page, here is a timeline of events:

“Sunday July 17th: Daniel Lamthach was last seen at Molas Lake area.
Monday July 18th: Cell phone was found by hikers on Elk Creek Trail at the Vestal Peak trail confluence.
Thursday July 21st at 5:55pm: Daniel Lamthach was reported missing by a concerned friend & the SAR operation was initiated with helicopter support from Flight For Life. His vehicle was located in the parking lot of Molas Lake trailhead.
Friday July 22nd: SAR operations continued with Flight for Life helicopter support and ground crews hiking in.
Saturday July 23rd, 2002: Search teams continued to scour the area…Severe weather conditions in the afternoon called for the helicopter team to pull out and local SAR members had to hike out.
Sunday July 24th, 2022: SJCSO & SJC SAR teams reviewed areas searched, gathered new information, and devised a search plan for the next day.”
Since Sunday, SAR has continued both an aerial and ground search, weather permitting.
Anyone with information regarding the search should contact the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office at 970-387-5531.

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