Snowmobiler lost near Vail texted Fla. friends for help
Summit County Correspondent
AGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” One of the rescued snowmobilers found Tuesday night in the remote Eagle County wilderness sent numerous text messages to friends and family back in Naples, Fla., while he anxiously awaited the arrival of search and rescue teams.
In the messages, Craig Morris attempted to describe his location for rescue teams, according to the Naples Daily News.
Morris, 43, is a contractor and longtime outdoor enthusiast. According to a close friend Scott Henderson, Morris and two other Florida men traveled to Morris’s second home northwest of Denver for an annual snowmobiling trip in the mountains.
On Sunday night, Morris, 43, along with friends Murry Melloni and Kremmling resident John McKibben, failed to return home from a day of snowmobiling in the backcounty. It was Tuesday morning when Henderson received a text message from Morris.
“He was fearful for his life, I can tell you that,” Henderson, who has snowmobiled with Morris in Colorado, told the Naples Daily News.
“The only chance to live was with a helicopter rescue,” Henderson said. “He mentioned in the text that he had seen a helicopter about a half a mile away, so he knew they were looking for him.”
At least three or four other Florida friends who received the same message, Henderson said.
Collier County (Fla.) residents Bruce Williams, a Naples plumber, and Ken Fraley, a Naples contractor, also traveled with Morris to Colorado, but were not lost in the storm, friends said.
After a full-day search, a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter located Morris and Melloni about two miles from Elliot Ridge in eastern Eagle County late Tuesday evening.
Morris and Melloni suffered mild exposure and were in better condition than rescuers anticipated. The men confirmed told authorities the third member of their party, McKibben, died during the night on Monday.
Henderson described McKibben to the Naples Daily News as Morris’s “right hand man” in Colorado who did handyman work and looked after Morris’s horses when he was in Florida.
“He wasn’t in the best health,” Henderson said of McKibben to the Naples newspaper. “I can say he was probably 48 to 50 years old, had emphysema, heavy smoker. … The combination of the single-digit temperatures is not good in that condition.”
Morris’s parents, Leigh and Nancy Morris, learned that their son was missing on Monday morning from Craig Morris’s ex-wife, Hannah. Craig Morris has a 17-year-old son, Corey, Henderson told the Naples Daily News.
“You can imagine what went through one’s mind,” Leigh Morris, 66, said. “What do we do? When do I go? Then you take a deep breath and say, ‘What can I do out there?’ We sort of decided not to go until we had more information.”
Lisa Morris, Craig’s sister, described her brother as a strong man who loves the outdoors. From what she’s heard, her brother and his friends got disoriented in the snow storm, the Daily News reported.
“We have nine lives and I think he’s shortened his to a couple left,” said Lisa Morris, 40, a Naples Daily News employee. “My brother is very rough and tumble. He’s very outdoorsy. That’s one of the reasons why he decided to build a house and go out to Colorado, because he loves it so much.”