by Monica Alonzo Fri., Apr. 19, 2013 01:07 PM
Members of the Superstition Search and Rescue have discovered what they suspect is the body of a hiker missing since Monday.
Crews from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office responded to Lost Dutchman State Park on Monday night — four days ago — after receiving a call of an overdue hiker, PCSO spokeswoman Tamra Ingersoll told the Arizona Republic on Wednesday.
Ingersoll told the Republic that Christopher Hensley, 34, was last seen Monday afternoon when he set out for a hike through the state park. She also said on Wednesday that the sheriff’s search crews had been searching for more than 45 hours but found no sign of Hensley.
SSAR members are just now coming down the mountain after making their discovery and reporting it to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
New Times spoke with Robert Cooper, head of the SSAR, as he sat on a rock in the canyon waiting for law enforcement officials to arrive and debrief him about his team’s find.
Cooper tells us the body fits the description of the missing man, but no positive identification has been made by law enforcement officials.
Cooper says he received a call last night from the wife of the missing man, asking for his team’s assistance. He went to her home and got a print from her husband’s shoe.
The team’s success would depend on tried-and-true tracking.
Last night, after Cooper left the wife’s home, he went to the park’s fence line, searched the footprints on the ground and says he was able to determine where the hiker apparently entered the park.
About 8:30 a.m. today, 11 SSAR members hiked into the canyon and ascended the steep cliffs.
They found a body in less than three hours.
“We can’t just come out unless we’re asked,” Cooper explains about his team’s involvement. “Our team is no longer part of the PCSO search-and-rescue team. We’re a private nonprofit organization.”
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu started his own search-and-rescue team, effectively booting SSAR for not wanting to disband and work under the sheriff’s command.
“We figured out where he entered and followed his prints into the canyon,” Cooper says.
Crews from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Pima County had also been assisting in the search.
Cooper says the body of the man is at the base of a 200-foot cliff, and while it appears that he fell, it’s unclear from what point on the face of the Flat Iron cliff the man fell.