Family thanks searchers as hunt continues for hiker missing in Uintas

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SALT LAKE CITY — The family of a 74-year-old hiker from Arizona missing since Monday voiced their appreciation for diligent teams combing the High Uintas as search efforts continued Wednesday.

"We continue to be hopeful because we know Mel and his love of the outdoors," the family of Melvin Heaps said in a statement Wednesday, thanking searchers for their work, and friends and family for their support.

Heaps, who usually sets out hiking whenever he visits family in the Salt Lake area, had planned to hike Monday evening in the High Uintas near Crystal Lake. When he didn't return home as expected later that night, family members called police.

As of Wednesday, searchers were combing the rugged terrain on horseback, on foot, with dog teams and by air, Summit County Sheriff's Lt. Andrew Wright said. Rescuers have been looking for Heaps since about midnight Monday, with more teams joining early Tuesday.

"At this point we're just trying to cover as much ground as possible in hopes that we find him before nightfall," Wright said.

Searching continued Wednesday until about 9:19 p.m., when the Summit County Sheriff's Office called off the search for the day. Crews will resume searching for Heaps at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Rescue teams consist of groups from Summit County, Wasatch County, the U.S. Forest Service and private dog teams, Wright said. Because the search area is large and treacherous, volunteers are not being brought in to search.

"We appreciate all of these agencies," Wright said. "We feel that having all of these resources benefits only Mr. Heaps, and then us as the lead agency in the search effort."

Heaps is described as a Caucasian male with brown hair and blue eyes. He is 5-feet 9-inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. Heaps is believed to be wearing a red long sleeve shirt and blue jeans with suspenders, according to police. He typically hikes with a straw hat.

Anyone with information as to his whereabouts can call the Summit County Sheriff's Office at 435-615-3600 or 435-615-3520.

Contributing: Linda Williams


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