Search continues for treasure hunters lost in Superstition Mountains


by Alicia E. Barrón

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 2:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 14 at 10:06 AM

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. -- A massive search and rescue effort is underway for some treasure-hunters who are lost in the mountains.

Three men from Utah were searching for the fabled Lost Dutchman Gold Mine in the Superstition Mountains but they are now missing.

For one of those hunters, this is déjavú.

The guys left Utah last Tuesday and were supposed to spend just a couple days there but then disappeared.

As for the man who was leading the group, this is not the first time this has happened.

Kurtis Merworth, 48, and two friends braved the blazing summer sun to search for gold in the Superstitions last year but got lost and had to be rescued.

Now, one year later, it has happened again.

Crews started searching in the air and on the ground on Sunday for Merworth and two different friends, who returned to search for the Lost Dutchman's gold mine.

Jim Hatt, a treasure hunter, says, “I believe he thought…he probably thought he was onto something."

The Lost Dutchman legend lured Jim Hatt there 20 years ago. He and many others continue to treasure-hunt in the Superstitions, even on the hottest days.

Hatt says, “You'd be surprised at how many people do. People looking for gold do it covertly so they like to go out when no one else is around. In the heat of the summer."

What concerns families of the missing men is that they were not prepared to spend even one night in the wilderness. They were supposed to stay at a hotel but their SUV was found at a trailhead and searchers believe the men have been lost now for several days.

Deputy Jeff Sprong, with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, says, “I do know. The area is vast and hard to get to know."

Hatt explains, “If you're in an area you haven’t been in, you can easily lose your way."

The search and rescue crews are carefully plotting their courses over the rough terrain and are hoping to bring the missing treasure-hunter and his friends back to safety.

Lost Dutchman State Park, which is named for the mine, is about 40 miles east of Phoenix.

The Lost Dutchman Mine has a long history dating back to 1840. Click here for a look back at the mine's important dates.