Body found on Camelback Mountain tentatively identified as missing hiker

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Video reports by Mike Watkiss & Kristine Harrington

Posted on June 3, 2014 at 10:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 4 at 1:07 PM

PHOENIX -- The body recovered from Echo Canyon on Camelback Mountain Tuesday evening has been tentatively identified as that of missing hiker Eric Fernandes, according to Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump.

Crump said the Medical Examiner's Office will confirm the identity and the family has been notified.

Hikers found the body near the top of Camelback Mountain early Tuesday evening. The body was found some 200 feet off the trail in a rugged area, in a small crevice.

"There are so many nooks and crannies and crevices and boulders," said John Clever, who found the body. "You really have to canvass the area tightly to cover it. You couldn't see it by helicopter. You had to do it by foot."

"We climb it every day, so not something we want to experience, but for parents of the person, we found it necessary to take extreme measures," said hiker Francesca, who used her bright yellow shirt to mark the spot so recovery crews could find the body. 

At first, it was not known if the dead person was Fernandes, who had been missing since he went hiking on Camelback Mountain on Saturday. The Seattle resident had been visiting the Phoenix area with his father.

"Late this afternoon we had some hikers that went up on the mountain contact us and indicate that they thought that they had seen a body," Crump said earlier. "They have described it as being a couple hundred feet over on the south side. We had a city parks worker that was up there did positively identify a body. We have now sent some technical rescue teams up there to try to assess the location to determine how we're going to best approach it. We may very well have a helicopter operation or a hoist operation that we're doing here this evening or tonight."

More information on this developing story as it becomes available

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Police suspend search for Seattle hiker missing on Camelback Mountain

PHOENIX -- The search for a 23-year-old Seattle man last seen hiking Camelback Mountain on Saturday has been suspended.

The ground search for Eric Fernandes resumed Tuesday morning after it was suspended Monday because of 110-degree temperatures. A police helicopter had searched into the evening.

On Tuesday afternoon, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump said search crews have covered the area they can by foot and there is no sign of Fernandes.

"We are on day three of him being out here," said Sgt. Crump. "This began for us on Saturday night with a helicopter and search teams out here and we are now hitting the seventy-two hour mark and the likelihood of him being able to survive out here in this environment is very unlikely."

The missing man's father, mother and brothers are in town from Seattle and did some searching of their own this morning.

The family is very disappointed that the official search for their son has been suspended.

"I told them not to give up. I'm pretty sure he is maybe resting somewhere and he must be still alive. So don't stop. Just search," said Sandra Fernandes.

Crump said if they get further information, they'll go back out to Camelback Mountain.

An excessive heat warning is in effect for metro Phoenix, where temperatures are expected to top out at 109 over the next three days.

"I thought giving birth was painful. Losing my son is so painful. I can't even describe the pain," said Fernandes mother Sandra Fernandes. "I'm here to take my son home with me."

Officials said there is not much more they can do in these extremely hostile conditions.

"Our thoughts and prayers go with the Fernandes family. There's nothing else that we can tell them. This is the last outcome we wanted to see happen out here but we just don't have anything else that we can do at this point," said Sgt. Crump.

Hikers are asked to keep an eye out for Fernandes, but Crump advises the public not to go out in the severe heat to search for him.

Fernandes had been visiting the Phoenix area with his father. He reportedly planned to hike the popular mountain Saturday before heading home. Fernandes' father said his son was scheduled to start a job on Monday.

Fernandes' father reported him missing Sunday and authorities began the search.

Investigators found Fernandes' car at a Camelback trailhead and have recovered receipts that indicate he bought a hydration backpack and some water.

Crump said people in distress on the steep, rocky mountain can be hard to spot if they're fallen into crevices.

According to Crump, Fernandes was last seen Saturday on top of the mountain by other hikers who said he was alone. They described him as surprised by the hike's difficulty. 

Police said Fernandes' cellphone died sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Police released a photo of a person who was seen with Fernandes in a Big 5 sporting goods store. Police said he's not a suspect in the case, but they want to talk with him since he was seen with Fernandes.

Fernandes' family is pleading for the public's help in finding him.
 

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