Police suspend search for Seattle hiker missing on Camelback Mountain

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

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.