Missing Hiker Found Dead in Arizona, Dog Who Stayed by Owner’s Side Rescued

Rescue teams have located the body of an elderly hiker on Wednesday after he went missing nearly one week earlier in an Arizona mountain area, authorities said.

Donald Hayes of Prescott Valley got lost on Mingus Mountain in Prescott National Forest on May 13 after going on a hike with his dog named Ranger, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) said in a press release.

The 74-year-old man was contacted by the YCSO that Friday, officials said. Hayes stated that he and Ranger were lost and urgently required assistance. Authorities were able to contact him after he had called his wife to inform her that he and Ranger were lost, but they weren’t sure where.

Officials advised Hayes to stay put at his current position, saying a rescue team has been dispatched, but the man insisted on not waiting for a rescue team, saying he was “continuing down a ravine.”

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Donald Hayes, 74, of Prescott Valley, Ariz. (Courtesy of Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office)

“[Hayes] told Forest Patrol he thought he was moving northwest and saw Williamson Valley,” the YCSO said in a separate statement on May 15. “He also said he still had food and water and was turning his phone off to save the battery. There has been no further communication with him, and efforts to use GPS through his cell phone have been unsuccessful.”

When searchers arrived at the described position, they were unable to find him or his dog.

“Unfortunately, the victim decided against the advice and tried to find his way out, causing him to become lost further in the forest,” the YCSO said.

Following a multi-day search, the victim’s body was recovered in a very rugged area that had been difficult to reach for rescue teams. His dog remained with its owner until searchers arrived.

Ranger was rescued and checked by a veterinarian volunteer on the scene before being taken to a local animal hospital for treatment, officials said.

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Prescott National Forest in Arizona. (Courtesy of Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office)

“Our condolences go out to Mr. Hayes’ family, and we wish the outcome could have been different,” YCSO Sheriff David Rhodes said.

YCSO Backcountry Search and Rescue (SAR) was assisted by volunteers from Coconino County, Maricopa County, and Gila County. Search teams included ground crews with K9 search dogs and a police helicopter.

“I thank all the volunteer search and rescue teams and others who gave of their time for 6 days to locate the victim and bring him home,” Rhodes said. “Our searchers utilized every tool at their disposal to find Mr. Hayes and never gave up.”

Hayes’s cause of death wasn’t immediately determined. The YCSO will be working with the medical examiner to determine how he died, KPNX reported.