EAGLE COUNTY — The search for a missing Indiana man lost during a hut trip has been called off, said the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
A storm that blew through the area Tuesday forced searchers to suspend their efforts around noon. There is no plan to send crews back into the 18-square-mile area, said Jessie Mosher with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
Dr. James McGrogan disappeared Friday afternoon after he became separated from his three friends as they were headed to the Eiseman Hut, north of Vail. McGrogan had a large pack with food, water and a full compliment of backcountry gear.
When his friends arrived at the hut, he wasn’t there.
“They realized they had to go back and try to find him,” his father, Bill McGrogan, told Kelli Stopczynski, a reporter with WSBT TV in South Bend, Ind.
“After an exhaustive search lasting five days, with no clues to locate James McGrogan, search and rescue efforts have now turned to a recovery mission,” said Jessie Mosher, public information officer with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. “The thoughts and prayers of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and Vail Mountain Rescue Group go out to the McGrogan family.”
You can see Vail
One of the most frustrating things, searchers said, was that they could see Vail from the search area.
The terrain is rugged where McGrogan disappeared, they said.
That first night, Friday, they spotted what they thought were his tracks, but as they scoured the area they found nothing.
The area is covered in about 8 feet of snow and is about 11,400 feet above sea level, Smith said.
Every set of tracks they followed led to nothing more than another disappointment, searchers said.
Search crews topped 110 people, who spent more than 1,000 man hours on the ground.
National Guard helicopter pilots from the High Altitude Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, headquartered at the Eagle County Regional Airport, spent another 30 hours searching from the air. Helicopters cost $5,000 an hour, but no one ever gets charged for rescue efforts, either on the ground or from the air, said Dan Smith with the Vail Mountain Rescue Group.
In 2013, HAATS pilots flew to the rescue a record 28 times. They directly saved 14 lives.
McGrogan, 39, is a 1993 graduate of Chesterton Indiana High School and a graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is an emergency room doctor in Mishawaka, Ind., in northern Indiana just west of South Bend.
“It took him three times to get into med school,” Bill McGrogan said. “Finally, the third time they took him. And he’s just always been like that. All through school he wanted to be a doctor, and he’s a good doctor. He’d help you in a heartbeat. If you were hurt, he’d be right there. That’s why he’s a doctor.”
He loved snowboarding and adventure, his mother told reporters. When he was reported missing, his family came to the area to help with the search.
He and his wife are the parents of two small children.
He and his family had recently returned from Wisconsin to his hometown for his job with a local hospital.
Groups assisting in the search include the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Colorado Army National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Alpine Rescue Group, Larimer County Search and Rescue Group, Summit County Rescue Group, Grand County Search and Rescue Group, and the Salvation Army.