Body found on mountain identified as that of Seattle hiker
A body found by volunteer hikers in Arizona on Tuesday has been identified as that of a 23-year-old Seattle man who was reported missing Sunday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A body found on Camelback Mountain in Phoenixhas been identified as that of Eric Fernandes, a 23-year-old Seattle man.
Fernandes was reported missing Sunday after failing to return from a hike on a popular mountain trail.
“He was supposed to start a job (Monday), and he was supposed to leave and I accompanied him all the way here because of safety,” Max Fernandes, Eric’s father, told a CBS affiliate in Phoenix.
Two volunteer hikers found Fernandes’ body between rocks Tuesday afternoon about 200 feet short of the mountain’s summit.
The Maricopa County Office of the medical examiner is awaiting further information to determine the cause and manner of death, but it appears to be heat-related. According to Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump, the city was under a heat advisory warning with temperatures up to 110 degrees when Fernandes went out for a hike.
“The trail he was on usually has a tremendous amount of activity,” Crump said. “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there every day — but in the summer it is brutally, dangerously hot.”
Crump said that Fernandes was last seen by two experienced hikers at the top of the mountain between 3 and 4 p.m. Saturday. They said he appeared taxed and complained of losing his wallet on the hike.
Fernandes, who graduated from Shorewood High School in Shoreline, was staying in the Phoenix area to visit a friend who moved there about eight months ago. He decided to hike the mountain the day before returning to Washington.
Police found receipts for a hydration backpack and water in Fernandes’ car, which was found at the trailhead.
After he went missing, the Phoenix Police Department sent out search-and-rescue teams, helicopters and detectives to scour the mountain for the missing hiker.
Members of Fernandes’ family, including his two brothers, also traveled to Arizona to help in the search. By 11:35 a.m. Monday, however, daytime conditions became too dangerous and police halted their search.
Max Fernandes complained about a lack of professional support needed from the entire county to find his son.
“We have lost precious time because of the heat,” Fernandes told The Arizona Republic. “But every time when the temperature goes down in the evening, they don’t have a second rescue team in succession to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. ... That’s a shame.”
According to Crump, the police did everything they could, given dangerous conditions.
“Any family member would want as many people searching as possible, of course,” Crump said. “But we would have had to terminate the search during the day when the heat hits triple digits to keep people safe. The trail is dangerous in those conditions with the heat, rocks, rattlesnakes — we could never require that of a rescue team.”
Erin Heffernan can be reached at email@example.com or 206-464-3249.