Casey Menuey, 33, and six friends headed out on Friday, June 6 for a weekend rafting trip on the Colorado. Approximately 23 miles downriver from Moab, the group stopped at Lathrop Canyon to view Ancestral Puebloan ruins, according to San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge, whose office is spearheading the search effort.
Menuey stayed at the boat while some members of the group hiked up to the ruins, but he later changed his mind and followed them up the trail, Eldredge said.
“When they returned, the rest of the people that remained in the boat asked where Casey was and the others said they never saw him,” Eldredge said. “They started looking for him but never found him.”
San Juan County deputies and the National Park Service have been patrolling up and down the river by boat every day since Saturday, Eldredge said. A Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter has also been searching the river from the air, and boaters have been alerted to the situation, he said.
The group was able to flag down a boat from a commercial river company on Saturday morning and the incident was reported to the National Park Service, said David Pitzer, a friend of Menuey’s who was also on the river trip. He said the friends are all employees of Wyoming-based Olsen Welding, which has been doing contract work in the Moab area for oil and gas developer Fidelity Exploration and Production Company. Pitzer said Menuey is his supervisor and they have been friends for two years.
He said the three people who were viewing the ruins heard Menuey calling out as they were descending the trail, and they called back, but he did not return to the boat.
“We found his tracks where he was walking and they it looked like he started running,” Pitzer said. “It looked like he had crawled through the brush to the river.”
He described Menuey as “a savvy guy” who loves being outdoors.
“He’s a really nice, kind of quiet guy, really into his family and work,” Pitzer said. “He’s been working in the oil field for seven years. He’s easygoing, calm. And he has a good sense of humor. He’s a leader.”
Pitzer said he was puzzled about why Menuey would head toward the water.
“He didn’t have a life jacket on, he wasn’t a good swimmer and he didn’t like the water,” Pitzer said. “The mystery is why he would go into the river.”
Pitzer said the group also found mountain lion tracks the next morning that were on top of the footprints.
“We came to the conclusion that maybe he saw a [mountain] lion and ran,” Pitzer said. “Or maybe he thought we had left him and was trying to find us. But that didn’t really make sense because the boat was still there.”
Eldredge said it’s common to find mountain lion tracks in the area and there was no indication the tracks were related to Menuey’s disappearance.
“The [National Park Service] followed [Menuey’s] tracks on Saturday morning and it appears he has gone into the water,” Eldredge said, adding that the river was running at about 10 miles per hour and the temperature was approximately 60 degrees on Saturday. According water flow date from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Colorado River was running at about 35,000 cubic feet per second on Friday and Saturday.
San Juan County deputies and the National Park Service will keep searching “for as long as it takes,” Eldredge said.
“The search will continue until we find Casey,” he said.