Tuesday 21 November 2017

Autistic man survives three-week ordeal in Utah desert

Dan Elliott in Denver

AN autistic man lived on frogs and roots as he wandered for weeks in the remote Escalante Desert of southern Utah until being rescued, emaciated but alive.

William Martin LaFever (28) told rescuers that in addition to the bits of food he scavenged, including a few frogs he caught, he drank water from the Escalante River while attempting to walk from Boulder, Utah, to Page, Arizona, a distance of about 140km.

The Garfield County Sheriff's Department estimated he had travelled about 65km over at least three weeks before he was found yesterday.

"It is some of the most rugged, unforgiving terrain you will find anywhere on Earth, jagged cliffs, stone ledges, sandstone, sagebrush, juniper," sheriff's spokeswoman Becki Bronson said.

"Where William was hiking, there just isn't anyone out there," she said. "There are no people. There are no towns."

The sheriff's department said it was remarkable that searchers aboard a helicopter were able to find Mr LaFever at all -- much less alive. They said he would not have survived another 24 hours.

The helicopter took Mr LaFever to a local hospital. It said it could not release any information on his condition.

Mr LaFever was trying to get to Page because his father, John LaFever, told him he would wire money to him from there.

William LaFever had called his father on June 6 or 7 to say he was hiking in the Boulder area with his dog, and that someone had stolen some of his hiking gear and he had run out of money. John LaFever told his son to catch a lift to Page to collect the money.

Unbeknown to his father, Mr LaFever apparently decided to hike down the Escalante River and catch a lift in a boat along Lake Powell to Page, rather than try to hitchhike on the road.

Mr LaFever set out along the river but ran out of food. His dog left him, and he began abandoning his gear until all he had was the clothing and shoes he was wearing when found.

The June phone call was the last time the family heard from him, and his sister reported him missing last Monday.

After he was found, Mr LaFever was so weak that he couldn't stand, but he was so eager for human contact that at first he would not stop talking long enough to eat or drink anything. He eventually took a drink and ate a granola bar.

Irish Independent

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