30 search for two lost in Utah desert

By Mark Havnes
The Salt Lake Tribune

ENTERPRISE, Utah — Marcus Garner is sure his brother and sister-in-law, believed lost in the vast desert of southwest Utah, are just waiting to be rescued.

Garner, who started looking for the lost pair on Friday, was joined by about 30 volunteers Saturday morning, many from northern Utah, to help in the search.

Nathan Lambros, a friend who was helping coordinate the volunteer search, said hopes faded with the sun Saturday night when the couple was not found. However, he said, crews would be out again today, probably farther north in Beaver and Millard counties.

Garner said the wait has been grueling. "It's been long days and nights," he said. "He's just stuck, I'm hoping, and not upside down in his truck."

Thomas, 40, and Tamatha Garner, 38, along with their chocolate-colored mutt, Medusa, have been missing since Jan. 26. That was when they were last seen on a surveillance video leaving a Panaca, Nev., convenience store heading east into Utah after getting gas.

The couple left their home in Kearns on Jan. 24 with plans to travel to St. George taking the back roads of western Utah and eastern Nevada in search of wild mustangs to photograph.

When they did not check in with family members Jan. 26, they were reported missing and a search was launched Monday in Nevada and Utah.

On Saturday morning, family members and friends volunteering to search, crowded into a room at the Sleep E Motel in Enterprise to be photographed, given walkie-talkies and receive search assignments.

And they brought plenty of resources, including four-wheel drive vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and even some horses.

To fuel the searchers, area stores donated food stacked against the walls of the motel room that served as a command post.

Volunteer Jeff DeKorver, who works with Thomas Garner at Franklin Covey in West Valley City, described his friend as a nice guy who loves the outdoors, is fond of taking pictures and exploring the west desert.

"I was surprised when I heard he was lost," said DeKorver. "He is a very responsible person, which is why I'm so concerned."

Jim Mounteer, a friend from Provo, also spoke highly of Thomas Garner and said volunteering was the least he could do for his friend.

"If I was lost out there I'd want my friends to look for me," he said.

In addition to the friends and family members, several volunteers from Hill Air Force Base and seven volunteers with the Iron County Search and Rescue team took part in looking Saturday for the couple that could be stranded on any number of roads that snake through the remote area.

Charlie Morris, emergency services manager for Iron County, said the weekend search would focus on northwestern Washington County and areas around Iron County including the western Hamlin Valley, the region around Pinto and Pine Valley Mountains and the area near Modena and the Nevada state line.

He said while he understands the desire for family and friends to look for the Garners, he hopes the searchers use common sense and not become objects of a search themselves.

"It's scary at best," he said. "Many of these people don't know which way is north in this area. So we'll try and keep them in lesser snow areas."

He said the more time passes without finding the couple, the less chance it will end well. Morris notes that in six days of searching, no message written in the snow has been found nor has signal fire nor attempt by the Garners to use a cell phone.

"It's disturbing," said Morris. "But I hear he [Thomas Garner] is outdoor-oriented and that they have blankets and goodies, so they could spend some time in the wilderness and be fine."

The searchers got help from a fixed-wing plane and two volunteer helicopters.
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