Camelback Mountain search for missing man called off

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Video report by Mike Watkiss

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 6:23 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 4 at 3:23 PM

PHOENIX -- Search teams scoured Camelback Mountain Monday morning for an out-of-town hiker who has been missing since Saturday.

Eric Fernandes, 23, and his father are from Washington state. In Phoenix to visit a friend who has just moved here, the pair had planned to drive home Sunday.

Due to triple-digit temperatures, authorities called off the search for Fernandes.

Phoenix police said Monday that crews will return to Camelback Mountain if they receive credible information about his whereabouts.

Investigators have obtained a surveillance photograph of the person they believe was last with Fernandes on Saturday. The two were together at a sporting goods store at approximately 1:30 p.m. Anyone who knows this individual is asked to contact the Phoenix Police Department.

After lunch Saturday, Fernandes decided to go hiking by himself. He never returned and nobody has been able to reach him by phone. According to Fernandes' father, he has never hiked Camelback Mountain.

Fernandes' father found his son's vehicle at the Echo Canyon Trailhead Sunday.

The Phoenix Police Department helicopter is searching from the air, and officers at the trailhead are handing out fliers to hikers.

At this point, police believe Fernandes went off the marked trail, but they are not sure if it was deliberate or by accident. They said if he were on or right by the trail, somebody probably would have seen him by now.

Fernandes is 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighs 120 pounds and has black hair, brown eyes and a beard. He was last seen wearing a blue short-sleeve T-shirt, black shorts and black tennis shoes. He had a CamelBak hydration backpack with him.

Police are particularly concerned because of the extremely high temperatures we've seen the past couple of days, as well as an Excessive Heat Warning issued for Monday. The temperature is expected to reach 95 by 10 a.m. and top out at 110 degrees. The average high for this time of year is about 100.

Echo Canyon is an extremely popular hiking destination, but it can be tough, especially for first-timers.

"Nearly everyone who hikes Camelback for the first time reports that it was more difficult than they expected," according to the city of Phoenix Camelback Mountain Trails Web page.

Several hikers to whom 3TV's Jill Galus spoke said they would like to see more warning signs at the trailhead for those not familiar with the dangers of hiking in extreme heat.

Heat-related illness is a very real concern and it can sneak up on you and become life-threatening very quickly. Heat is actually one of the leading weather-related killers in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service.

It starts with dehydration and worsens from there.

Symptoms of dehydration include thirst or a dry, sticky mouth, headache and muscle cramps, extreme fatigue and irritability, weakness and dizziness, and decreased performance.

While dehydration can strike anyone, visitors to Phoenix and surrounding cities are especially prone to succumbing to the heat because they're not used to it and are often ill prepared.

Dehydration can turn into heat exhaustion. That can turn into heatstroke, which is the most serious form of heat illness. It can be deadly.

The Echo Canyon trail on Camelback Mountain reopened in January after an extensive $4.34 million renovation project.

Approximately 700,000 hikers use Camelback’s two summit trails each year.

If you have any information about what happened to Fernandes, call the Phoenix Police Department Missing Persons Unit at 602-534-2121 or email phoenix.tips.ppd@phoenix.gov. If it is after hours, calls 602-262-6141.

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