I don’t usually weigh in on things, but I will on this one.
The task of SAR is to differentiate from the Rest of the World (ROW) and the Search Area. We know we cannot search the ROW, so we try to rule it out, and we try to define the Search Area. This is why the search started at the Last Known Position (LKP) and followed clues (none) and signs (very few after so many days) to a place in the Bull Creek drainage. After several days there we found no more sign.
After many days of sun and rain we do not even think we will find any tracks; even those of searchers are pretty much gone by now.
Any moving thing within the several hundred kilometer square area would have been spotted, and easily. For example; a hiker was in there last Saturday and Sunday and he was spotted from the ground and the air no less than 5 times, and again on Sunday by an independent pilot who is not a trained SAR spotter.
A non-moving and unresponsive subject however is a different story.
If he was ON the route, or within 100m of the route I think there is a very good chance we would have spotted him. Without a map or compass however, there is an exceedingly small chance anyone would have been able to stay on the route for it’s entire length. I found myself needing to consult map, compass and GPS many times as we thrashed through the bush; it’s difficult to tell where a pass is when you can’t see the surrounding mountains.
However, here is the reality, and I hate to be brutal about this.
He is almost certainly not on the main route, and not mobile or responsive. The survival rate of an immobile subject is very low; even an adult in a building at room temperature can die of hypothermia in 2-3 days at room temperature if immobilized. For even a fit adult in the wilderness with temperatures under 10 degrees for more than 18 days it is almost zero. Taking into account that something must have made him either immobile or unresponsive or both, the chances of survival are even slimmer.
It is even likely that he was deceased before this search started.
Add to this that he did not have a map or a compass and cannot make a decision based on terrain, or proximity to roads, the the outlook is grim.
Based on years of SAR experience, and from my own research, I would hazard a guess that he came to grief in one of two ways;
- falling off a cliff. We searched for David Koch for 12 days in a much more proscribed search area on Grouse Mountain. He was found on day 14 (I think) in a gulley, with injuries consistent from falling off a cliff. He was deceased, probably on the first day of the search.
- falling in a creek. SAR members had much difficulty crossing creeks in the area and remarked several times at the variability in the flow — rain up high causing the creeks to swell. Even the smallest slip would have been tragic for any SAR member involved in the search.
With the chances of finding him alive being near zero, and a lack of clues or signs to take the search in a different direction, decision makers with much more experience than I made the call to shut the search down.
Please, do not take upon yourselves any more risk than you would otherwise attempt in your regular hiking activities. If even one person is injured or hurt in attempting to find Tyler Wright I can imagine how horrible it would be for the family to feel responsible for your actions. There are no 911 calls from this area, and even Satellite phones are not reliable (ie: don’t rely on SPOT). It would suck to have to spend another two weekends in the bush looking for someone trying to find Tyler.
Finally, I’d like to say this; people might feel that they are betraying someone when they are giving up, and admitting defeat. There is no closure from never knowing why or where someone met their end. All I can say is that for me as a searcher, I’ve had to do this a few times, but only a very few times, and each time is hard.
Support the family of Tyler Wright, but do not give false hope.