DENVER – The discovery of remains on Colorado's Mount Evans has brought an end to weeks of searching for a father and son from Minnesota who disappeared in April after apparently setting out on a hike up one of the state's tallest mountains.
Authorities confirmed Friday that the remains found Thursday by searchers on the 14,265-foot-peak were that of Damian McManus, 51, and Evan McManus, 18, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
They were last heard from April 2 after telling a friend they were going to scale a peak. They were reported missing April 6, when the search began. It was spring break, but one marked at Mount Evans by sometimes-blinding winter weather that severely hampered search efforts.
The search was difficult because the men's exact route wasn't known. Their car was found at the Echo Lake campground, at the foot of Mount Evans, about 40 miles southwest of Denver, but there are several trails nearby. Heavy snow also fell after they disappeared, obscuring any footprints.
Family spokeswoman Andrea Bouzrara issued a statement on behalf of Katherine McManus, Damian McManus' wife and Evan's mother, and her daughter Lauren thanking everyone who helped search for the pair and offered support and prayers over the last three months.
"It has meant the world to Katherine and Lauren to know that so many people have held them up. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers going forward," Bouzrara said.
The family declined further comment.
On her Facebook page, Katherine McManus chronicled her efforts to celebrate Lauren's high school prom and graduation as the search wore on. Last month, she posted a photo of fireworks following her daughter's commencement for "Evan and Daddy to see."
A host of volunteer rescuers and mountaineers had searched the area repeatedly, always communicating their findings to each other, said Capt. Bruce Snelling of the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office. The volunteers include a group known as Team McManus, which includes a longtime friend of Damian McManus, who have been volunteering to search several days a week.
On Thursday, someone from that group spotted what appeared to be skeletal remains in a draw about 2 miles from the campground. The remains could easily have been missed, given exposure to the elements and the rugged landscape, Snelling said.
Teams from Alpine Rescue and Rocky Mountain Rescue rushed to the area and soon found a second set of remains. The remains were removed and identified by the county coroner.
Snelling said he didn't know if the Minnesota men were sufficiently prepared for the hike.
Altitude may have been a factor. The trailhead's elevation is 10,600 feet; the highest point in Minnesota is Eagle Mountain, at 2,301 feet, in the far northeastern part of the state.
How the men reached the isolated draw is a matter of speculation, Snelling said.
It is possible that they hiked on a trial from the Echo Lake campground to a small bridge crossing Vance Creek, then followed the creek to a draw that channels another creek that has no name. It's possible the men attempted to descend that draw but that conditions stopped them. Their hike easily could have been twice the length of the 2-mile straight distance to the campground below.
Four firefighters from Edina, St. Louis Park and Eden Park, Minnesota, had also been searching the area since Tuesday.
Searchers initially worked in up to 3 feet of snow, on foot and by snowmobiles, and the threat of avalanches initially prevented them from going into some areas. The local search team, the Alpine Rescue Team, spent a combined 5,000 hours searching for the men, spokesman Bill Barwick said.