Coroner: Deputy died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound
The coroner in neighboring Garfield County announced Tuesday that an Eagle County Sheriff’s deputy died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
First responders found Tayler Esslinger, 26, dead in his truck Friday morning after searchers spent three days looking for him. He was found near Willow Creek on Deep Creek Road in the eastern edge of Garfield County, the southeast Flat Tops area. A HAATS Colorado National Guard helicopter crew spotted his black Ram truck at 9:35 a.m. Friday.
Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire announced Tuesday afternoon that he had ruled Esslinger’s death a suicide.
Esslinger, an Eagle County sheriff’s deputy, spent 12 years as a volunteer firefighter with the Gypsum Fire Protection District. He graduated from Eagle Valley High School in 2012.
After Esslinger went missing a week ago, family and friends immediately began searching and soon were joined by dozens of other volunteers. By Friday, more than 75 volunteers had joined the search in addition to crews of first responders.
“The Esslinger Family, Gypsum Fire Protection District, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and all of Tayler’s friends throughout our community continue to work through this very tragic loss of one of our own,” the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and Gypsum Fire Protection District said in a joint statement. “While the outcome is heartbreaking to all of us, we are happy to have been able to bring Tayler home. Now we can celebrate his life and dedication to Eagle County and start to heal from his loss. The love and support this community has provided through this heartbreaking time is truly beyond words. This support has been a comfort to us all.”
The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office handled the investigation.