2 Tohono O’odham members found safe after going missing from Arizona State Fair

Thomas J. Lewis, left, and Phillip Pancho, right, have been found safe after days of searching.
Thomas J. Lewis, left, and Phillip Pancho, right, have been found safe after days of searching.(Tohono O'odham Nation)
Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 2:36 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) Two Tohono O’odham Nation members with special needs have been found safe after going missing from the Arizona State Fair last week, a spokesperson for the nation confirmed Wednesday.

Last Friday, Oct. 20, 61-year-old Thomas J. Lewis and 52-year-old Phillip Pancho visited the fairgrounds as part of a day trip program for tribal members with disabilities. They were last seen around noon, and other group members became concerned when they didn’t meet up at 2:30 p.m. when they were supposed to leave.

After days of searching, the nation says Pancho was picked up by authorities in Tempe and taken to a hospital. He was not carrying identification and couldn’t communicate. But Tuesday night, hospital staff recognized him from a missing persons flier and contacted Tohono O’odham police.

The search was then expanded around the area where Pancho was found, and on Wednesday morning, Mesa police found Lewis. He’s said to be in good health.

“The Nation appreciates the incredible efforts of local, state, and federal agencies, volunteers, family members, the Tohono O’odham Police Department, the Nation’s Office of Emergency Management, the Nation’s Department of Health and Human Services, and many others who assisted in the search for Mr. Lewis and Mr. Pancho,” the spokesperson said in a press release. “The Tohono O’odham Nation is looking forward to reuniting both men with their families and reviewing its policies to ensure that this never happens again.”

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