Missing hiker found alive after 2 days in wilderness
EDWARDS – Rescue workers Wednesday found a New Castle woman who had been missing since disappearing from a hike with friends Monday.Rescue workers found Eileen Leland, 57, at about 4 p.m. near Middle Lake, on the East Lake Creek trail south of Edwards, said Kim Andree of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. Leland seemed to be in good condition, police said.”Army helicopter pilots from the High Altitude Training center sighted the missing woman,” Andree said. “The pilots quickly removed her from the field and transported her to the Vail Valley Medical Center.”On Wednesday, some 50 rescue workers from across the state and Sandy, a rescue dog from Summit County, split into eight teams on the East Lake Creek and West Lake Creek hiking trails searching for Leland, who had been hiking with a group of friends and her husband when she disappeared.
Leland was reported missing at 3 p.m. Monday, three hours after she had gone missing on the Dead Dog trail, which forks off the East Lake Creek trail.”She was hiking ahead of the group when she became separated from them,” Andree said.The search, suspended overnight Tuesday, resumed at 6 a.m. Wednesday. Crews searched by foot, on horseback, on all-terrain vehicles and even helicopters. Those helping with the search included Vail Mountain Rescue, the Summit County Rescue Group, Western State Search and Rescue, members of Club 100 (a Garfield County hiking group to which the woman belongs), the U.S. Forest Service and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. The Army National Guard conducted helicopter grid searches from the air. Jason Battagla provided the horses and guided searchers on the trail, Andree said.
Jim Koegel, a rescue worker with the Summit County Rescue Group said it’s not uncommon for someone to get lost for several days and survive.”Some have come out even under worse conditions than these,” said Koegel, who was among the workers searching Wednesday. “For this time of year and the terrain, these are optimal conditions for survivability.”The past days have been warm with temperatures in the 70s during the day and 40s at night with a full moon.The East Lake Creek trail, an intermediate hiking trail, begins in the woods. The trail then heads deep into the forest. Andree said the surrounding area contains rugged terrain suitable only for experienced searchers.
Early Wednesday, rescue workers had been positive about finding Leland.”We will set up a search area and search it until we find that person,” said Bob Armour, coordinator for Vail Mountain Rescue. “We’ll go as long as it takes. We’ll find her.”Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or firstname.lastname@example.org.