MILLCREEK, Utah (ABC4 News) – It’s a happy ending to what could have turned out much different for a 17-year-old California teen after he was missing in Millcreek Canyon for more than 24 hours.
Officials identified the teenager as Nicolas, of Fresno, Calif., and said he is visiting friends in Utah. But Thursday morning, he went on a hike by himself near the Red Pine Trail – located roughly five miles from the mouth of the canyon – and never returned.
Ken Hansen, with the Unified Police Department, said when Nicolas did not make it to a dinner party in Park City Thursday night, he was reported missing.
Friday morning Salt Lake County Search and Rescue crews – along with Summit and Wasatch County Search and Rescue – began efforts to find the missing teen.
While Friday’s weather conditions were blue-sky, an ABC4 weather report suggests it’s below freezing in the mountain area.
Friday afternoon rescue crews found signs that led to Nicolas.
“There was somebody who was post-holing. Didn’t have skis or snowshoes on. You could see that was some tough travel,” said Rick Vollmer, a Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue member, who is one of the first to find the teen. “We came upon a tree well, found a pair of gloves, and a single boot that went down into the tree well and found a snow cave an empty pack and a pair of levis.”
Vollmer continues to say about 74 feet north of the items, another boot was found.
At the time, he said, “it [Nicolas’ survival] was not too good.”
As crews continued through the deep snowpack, about a quarter-mile up, they found him alive. But not long before crews found Nicolas, officials said two backcountry skiers had stumbled upon him.
“He couldn’t have last much longer,” Vollmer said.
Flown off the mountain in a Department of Public Safety helicopter, Nicolas was brought to a landing zone in Millcreek where he stepped out of the chopper and was greeted by his family and first responders.
At the time, he had no shoes, just socks covered in snowy ice. UPD officials said he was then transported by an ambulance to the University of Utah Hospital for examination.
“Looks like he has some early signs of frostbite because he actually took off his shoes and that’s one of the first signs of hypothermia is you get too warm,” said Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera. “And you want to go ahead and start removing some parts of your clothes.”
Multiple officials repeatedly expressed how fortunate Nicolas is to be alive and they hope to meet him.
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