An autistic man, William Martin LaFever, 28, of Colorado Springs, walked a distance of 40 miles in the Escalante Desert of Utah, surviving on frogs and roots, and drinking from the Escalante River before he was rescued on Thursday, weak and emaciated.
According to a report by The Associated Press, LaFever decided to walk from Boulder, Utah, to Page, Arizona, a distance of about 90 miles. According to sheriff's spokeswoman Becki Bronson, the Escalante Desert is one of "the most rugged, unforgiving terrain you will find anywhere on Earth, jagged cliffs, stone ledges, sandstone, sagebrush, juniper. Where William was hiking, there just isn't anyone out there. There are no people. There are no towns."
AP reports that LaFever decided to go to Page because his father John LaFever, told him he would wire money to him there. He had called his father and told him he was hiking with his dog in the Boulder area. He told his father that some of his hiking gear had been stolen and that he was short of cash. His father instructed him to take a bus to Page to collect the money. But he decided to hike along the Escalante River and take a boat at Lake Powell to Page. But soon after he set out, he ran out of food and his dog ran off. He gradually abandoned his gear along the way until he was left with only the clothes he had on.
His family reported him missing on Monday. Searchers aboard a helicopter found him on Thursday. In the search team was Deputy Ray Gardner, who only recently completed a training in search and rescute operations for people with autism. Gardner decided to search for him along the Escalante river. The searchers spotted him sitting in the river five miles form Lake Powell. He waved weakly when he saw the aircraft.
The helicopter flew LaFever to Garfield Memorial Hospital in Panguitch.
Deputy Gardner said: "In all my career I have never seen someone so emaciated. I could not believe that he was alive, and feel certain that in another 24 hours he would not have been alive."
AP reports LaFever was so weak that he couldn't stand on his feet, but he was so happy to see his rescuers that he talked continuously for some time, neglecting to eat.