UTAH COUNTY, Utah (KSTU) -- A Utah woman was found in a camping tent in a campsite area near the Dry Canyon Trailhead in Diamond Fork Canyon on Sunday afternoon, after being sought after for more than five months.
The 47-year-old woman, whose identity is being withheld, was first reported missing after a U.S. Forest Service employee noticed her vehicle in the trailhead parking lot on November 25, 2020, and wanted to find her to notify the woman of the seasonal gate closure on the road. After a week or two went by, Utah County Sheriff's Office deputies, search and rescue volunteers and a fixed-wing aircraft went back to the area to search for her.
“We didn’t have immediate reason to believe that she was in danger; we just didn’t know what her status was," said Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff's Office. “All we had was her car down here in this parking lot, some of her personal items in that car and the campsite up here — all of which had appeared to have been unused for an extended period of time and no evidence that she was still here.”
Search and rescue members searched the area a number of times during the winter. A detective had even been assigned to the case and followed some leads, including talking to former co-workers of the woman who didn't know of her plans.
She remained missing until this past weekend when there was an unexpected discovery in the area.
On Sunday, a sheriff's sergeant and drone pilot were scanning nearby the trailhead location for any indication she might be alive.
“They sent the drone up, and apparently on one of its first passes, the drone crashed. So they went up looking for the drone that had crashed, and in doing that, they came across another small campsite where there was a tent," said Sgt. Cannon. "As they’re looking at this, the zipper of the tent unzipped and this woman who we had identified the previous year in November and December of last year sticks her head out.”
Just before 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, the sergeant called in to dispatch that they had located the woman.
“We’ve had a missing person all winter, I just found her alive in Diamond Fork, kind of worried about her health condition, lack of food and water," he said.
According to police, the woman was in rough physical shape. She said that she rationed some food she had left, drank from a nearby stream and relied on grass and moss for a diet.
“I have to be honest, we fully expected we wouldn’t find anybody ... alive up here given how long it had been. In situations like that, we often find somebody after they passed away," said Sgt. Cannon. “We were quite relieved and happy that she was still alive.”
At one point, the woman said that she was given some food by fellow campers during the winter. She was transported to Utah Valley Hospital for evaluation, but her condition since is not known.
“Our hats off to her as a survivor. Whatever else is going on in her life, her ability to survive in undoubtedly difficult circumstances is remarkable," said Sgt. Cannon.
Based on initial evaluation, those with the sheriff's office believe that the woman is suffering from some sort of a mental illness.
If you or someone you know is experience mental or emotional challenges, there are numerous resources available:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: 800-950-NAMI
- National Institute of Mental Health: 1-800-662-HELP
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
- More resources can be found here