BOULDER, Utah (ABC 4 News) – Rescue crews are calling it a miracle. An autistic man wandered three weeks through Utah’s Escalante desert and survived. The helicopter pilot crew who found him tells ABC 4 he is lucky to be alive.
Rescue crews can’t even believe they found him.
“After three weeks, frankly there was little hope of finding him alive,” said Shane Oldfield, Utah Highway Patrol Helicopter Pilot.
They knew 28 year old William LaFever of Colorado was wandering in the Escalante desert, but had no idea where.
“There’s a lot of country out there and we had no idea where he was,” said Oldfield.
LaFever suffers from autism. Back in June, he began hiking from Boulder, Utah to Lake Powell. He was trying to get to Page, Arizona so his family could wire him money. For three weeks, he wandered roughly 50 miles along the Escalante River, finally he become so weak he couldn’t move.
Oldfield’s co-pilot, Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Gardner had recently been trained on searching for autistic missing persons. He learned water can be soothing for them, so they followed the Escalante River hoping he might be there.
Oldfield said it was a little bit of luck that helped them spot him.
“He’s lucky that he went where he said he was going to be,” said Oldfield. “It just so happened we were on a right hand bank so I saw him sitting there in the water.”
Although he was in bad health, crews said he was much better than they expected.
“Just having sat up to be able to wave his arms was probably a feat for him,” said Oldfield. “The fact that he was alive at all was incredible in that he was conscience, cognizant, and coherent was miraculous.”
His family told ABC 4 they are overwhelmed with all the media attention they received from TV stations, and newspapers across the country, but they are extremely happy LaFever is alive.