Volunteer dies during search and rescue Tuesday
By Alexis Bechman
April 6, 2011
Gila County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Posse member Larry Woolsey fell to his death Tuesday night during a search for a man missing since Friday.
Woolsey, 77, was working with two other mounted posse members when the accident occurred about 7 p.m. within the town limits of Star Valley.
“Today is a really bad day,” said mounted posse Commander Earl Chitwood. “He lost his life searching for somebody else who was lost. Larry was a great guy.”
Woolsey was leading his horse across an old dam when he lost his footing and fell approximately 20 feet to the rocks below, said Lt. Tim Scott with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.
Members of the posse rushed to Woolsey’s side until Hellsgate Fire arrived on scene.
Due to the remote location of the accident in the Tonto National Forest, medical personnel had to hike or ride in on ATVs.
Woolsey was pronounced deceased at 7:45 p.m. on scene.
“Gila County Sheriff John Armer expresses his condolences to the family and friends of Woolsey. Woolsey was a friend to many and an irreplaceable asset to the mounted posse. He will be missed by all,” Scott said.
Searchers continue to look for Mark Alexander, 56, who left his home in the Bear Flats subdivision on a green ATV sometime around 10 a.m. on April 1.
A neighbor of Alexander’s notified the sheriff’s office Tuesday around 2 p.m. that he had not heard from Alexander since he left.
“It did not appear that Alexander had prepared for an extended trip, and no specific destination is known,” Scott said. “Alexander has been known to ride Forest Service roads and trails around Bear Flats, and between there and Payson.”
A Department of Public Safety helicopter from Tucson will join the search for Alexander Wednesday, said Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Commander Bill Pitterle.
“It is a vast area we are trying to cover,” he said. “There are a huge number of quad roads out there and we blanketed a lot of them last night and will do more today.”
The area around Star Valley is a popular area for quad riders and searchers have found tons of fresh quad tracks, but none so far have led to Alexander.