Memorial Day weekend search for a missing 7-year-old ends in happy reunion



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

VERNAL — Uintah County Sheriff's Office started their weekend off with a 13-hour overnight search for a 7-year-old boy.

"It was kind of like a needle in a haystack in the dark," said Shad Shelley, commander of Uintah County Search and Rescue.

A 7-year-old boy went missing Friday night after he was last seen on his motorcycle in the Dyer Park Area.

"Families go through many emotions when they have a missing child, like that they always play the worst-case scenario through their minds," Shelley said.

That scenario was on repeat during a long 13-hour search.

"It was such a dark, thick night that we just had a lot of challenges in the area that night," Shelley said.

The trees and brush were so dense the Department of Public Safety helicopter could not even pick up heat signatures.

"We knew we were trying to beat a storm, so we were trying to get as many people on the ground as we could," Shelley said.

Dozens of volunteers worked throughout the night, and finally, on Saturday morning, crews found footprints about two miles from the motorcycle. That's when it was clear the boy was walking in circles.

"We had formed a line, and they were walking through the brush, and at the very end, a guy ended up seeing a spot of red which happened to be his coat," Shelley said.

The 7-year-old was tucked up against a rock. He still had his motorcycle helmet on because he couldn't get it off on his own.

"Thirteen hours he would have been very confused, especially with that helmet on his vision was very limited, and his hearing was very limited," Shelley said.

KSL -TV exclusive video shows the emotional reunion of the boy with his parents.

"It's a unique feeling that's why we do it, to be able bring those kids back to their family," Shelley said.

Uintah County Search and Rescue say they are grateful for all agencies that helped get this boy home, including the Department of Public Safety, Classic Lifeguard, law enforcement officers from the U.S Forest Service, BLM, and DNR, and search and rescue teams from Uintah County, Duchesne County, Wasatch County, and Moffat County, Colorado.

There were also many other resources on standby, ready and willing to assist in the search.

Crews are pleading for everyone to stay safe and be prepared. Here are some tips and a way to donate to your local search and rescue crews.

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Kiersten Nuñez
Kiersten Nuñez is a reporter for KSL-TV. Prior to joining the KSL team in 2022, she spent several years working as a multimedia journalist in the Salt Lake City area.

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