Search continues for missing climber
September 27, 2016
Pitkin County officials enlisted the help Monday of a state-owned airplane equipped with sensitive cameras in the search for a missing climber in the Maroon Bells area.
That's according to Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, who said he was at a conference last week where officials with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control expressed a willingness to use the two specially equipped fire-detection airplanes for search-and-rescue missions.
The plane has a high-powered thermal camera to pick up heat signatures and a high-resolution camera to search the ground, Burchetta said. The planes are mainly used to detect wildfires, he said.
Volunteers from Mountain Rescue Aspen and other agencies have been searching for David Cook, 49, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, since Thursday morning. A woman called authorities Tuesday night after Cook, who was climbing by himself, failed to check in, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.
Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers located Cook's car in the Maroon Bells parking lot Wednesday with a receipt inside indicating he arrived at about 11 a.m. Helicopters searched for Cook, who planned to climb both the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak, on Thursday but did not find him.
Bad weather Friday and Saturday hampered search efforts, though searchers found no sign of him when weather cleared Sunday, Burchetta said. Two Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers searched for Cook on the ground Monday while the state helicopter searched from above, though searchers continued to come up empty-handed, he said.
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Officials plan to meet today and figure out a new search plan going forward, Burchetta said.
On the hiking forum 14ers.com, members started sharing information last week about Cook and the search. Mountain Rescue Aspen posted a call for information to all Pyramid/Bells Traverse/North Maroon climbers on Sept. 20 to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with information about what they did or did not see that day.
Cook was reportedly wearing khaki pants, a black long-sleeve shirt that said "Burton" on it, a dark navy blue or black jacket and a blue helmet, according to a Facebook post.