By Joe Napolitan
The body of a missing 30-year-old male, Dylan Martin, was found on May 15 and subsequently recovered on May 16 by the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), according to Undersheriff Derek Woodman.
During an interview on May 26, Woodman explained that there continues to be an ongoing investigation and that there are many questions to be answered.
The undersheriff reported that Martin was dropped off on March 28 at the then-closed gate along the access road off of U.S.160 by a friend, who had agreed to pick him up after four days.
The two had had a discussion that if Martin hiked out early, he would hitchhike to Farmington, N.M., or Durango to try and catch a bus, so the friend wasn’t alarmed when Martin hadn’t shown up at the arranged time.
The friend communicated that to Martin’s mother, who was in Denver, before continuing on a multistate road trip. After several weeks of no contact with her son, Martin’s mother called the ACSO on April 15, Woodman reported.
“Rafters discovered the body and notified us the evening of the 15th,” Woodman said. “The morning of the 16th, we recovered the body and they conducted an autopsy on the 19th. There’s no trauma to the body whatsoever, so preliminarily the cause of death is hypothermia. We’re waiting on toxicology.”
Woodman described the location where the body was found as an area that was only accessible from the river. It was located approximately 2 miles downstream from the bridge before the First Fork Trailhead, roughly 6 miles upstream from the hot springs. The body was resting beneath a shelf beside an eddy on the east side of the river at the toe of a rapid. Unless anyone traveling the river intended to rest at the eddy, it was unlikely that they would look back and spot the body.
“It’s not like you can walk up the river and walk around that. There’s no way to fall from above to come down,” Woodman said. “The speculation, and that’s all it is at this point, is that he presumably walked down the road and somehow entered the river and, whether it was intentional or unintentional, a slip or fall, he came down the river a distance.”
Woodman stated that the river was never high enough to wash him up to where he was found immediately at the water’s level, presuming that he moved there under his own power. It was likely that he was hypothermic in the water as it was in the low 30s at the time. When Martin was found, he was in only a pair of shorts and a T-shirt with no shoes or jacket.
According to an ACSO narrative, on April 25, Director of Emergency Operations Mike Le Roux received a page that someone had found personal effects belonging to Martin at the Sheep Creek Hot Springs area in the Piedra River Valley. That afternoon, six members from the Upper San Juan Search and Rescue were deployed to the area where they discovered the effects reported. Long pants with a belt, a jacket, a towel, and a wallet including Martin’s credit card, driver’s license, and Social Security card were amongst the items found.
Woodman explained that the clothes were found hung up and no footwear has been found thus far.
“This is what we don’t know — was he fully clothed? Did he take them off there? Did his clothes end up washing downstream and then somebody picked them up and hung them up? Did he leave them,” Woodman said. “We all know with hypothermia, the mind goes the other way, maybe he ripped his clothes off there.”
Woodman added that it’s 10 miles to the bridge from the gate where Martin was dropped off. Before the gate was opened by the Forest Service, the gate had been broken and the ACSO knew that people had traveled into the area during the time Martin went missing. However, the snow was still too deep to travel much farther beyond the gate with a vehicle.
“So, we’re still missing stuff. It’s a long way. Nobody, regardless of their state, is going to walk that far without shoes because back then it was all snow,” said the undersheriff. “It still comes back to where’s the sleeping bag, backpack and tent. Because even if that would have ended up in the river, a sleeping bag and tent would have been hung up on something.”
Woodman mentioned that as of the morning of May 26, teams were still out searching for the tent and backpack, both presumably red.
Woodman requested that anyone who might have information regarding the missing camping gear, details about Martin’s clothes or any additional information contact the ACSO at (970) 264-8444.