An Arizona congressional staffer has died after he and a female companion went on a hiking excursion in Death Valley National Park.
As stated in an Inyo County Sheriff’s Office news release, Alexander Lofgren, 32, and Emily Henkel, 27, went missing on Sunday, April 4, when their vehicle, described as a white Subaru, was discovered with two flat tires off of Gold Valley Road at approximately 11 a.m.
The search, according to the sheriff’s office, was initiated on Tuesday, April 6, after authorities were notified that Lofgren and Henkel had not returned by their due date of April 4.
Lofgren’s backcountry itinerary was thoroughly checked, along with every attraction and tourist site along Highway 190 with no results.
A note located inside the vehicle, according to authorities, stated that the pair had “three days worth of water and were headed to Mormon Point,” which proved to be a crucial tip in directing search efforts, according to the sheriff’s office.
On April 9, Inyo County Search and Rescue team members were able to access a remote and steep ledge where Lofgren and Henkel were eventually located via aerial reconnaissance in the Willow Creek area of the park.
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Lofgren’s death, where custody was transferred to the Inyo County coroner.
An investigation is underway to determine the exact cause and manner of his death.
Henkel, meanwhile, was located alive and flown out for medical treatment to Lemoore Naval Air Station.
“This has been a tremendously difficult operation in a very unforgiving geographic area of Inyo County, I sincerely hope for healing and recovery for all involved,” said Inyo County Sheriff Jeff Hollowell.
Lofgren was a congressional staffer for Rep. Raul Grijalva, who represents Arizona’s 3rd District.
In a statement released on Friday, April 9, by way of Twitter, Grijalva said he was “heartbroken” after learning of Lofgren’s death.
“Alex lived a life of service and always put the needs of others first,” the statement read. “After serving our country in Afghanistan, he came home to Arizona to serve veterans right here in Southern Arizona as a caseworker in my office. The passion he dedicated to his work each day touched countless lives. No matter the situation, Alex met those he helped with a smiling face, a caring heart, and an unrivaled empathy.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes