Following is the article from this weeks Apache Junction News
"‘Personality Conflict’ Affects Search Effort
Sheriff rebukes the Superstition Wilderness’ main rescue group for Superstition search—
Missing hiker’s body recovered after 5 days and only 150 yards from the parking lot
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski The News
A hiker found dead about 6 p.m. Tuesday, September 15, near Discovery Trail Head in Lost Dutchman State Park died from cardiac arrest, according to preliminary autopsy results released Thursday, September 17, by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. The report revealed that Kelly Tate, 53, had a diseased blood vessel in his heart, apparently unknown to him and his family, according to PCSO spokeswoman Tami Villar. Entomology supports the estimation that Tate had been deceased for a minimum of four to five days when his body was found only 150 yards from his motorcycle in the Park’s parking lot, Villar said.
Tate had been missing since Thursday, September 10, when he told his wife he was going to go hiking for a few hours. When he did not return, his wife called the police, Villar said. Sheriff Paul Babeau of Pinal County did not call out Superstition Search and Rescue to help find the missing Mesa man because of a “personality conflict,” according to Villar. The 15-year-old SSAR team has a record of retrieving 2,000 hikers alive from the Superstition Wilderness over the course of those 15 years.
Instead, up to 150 searchers from rescue teams from Pinal Pima, Maricopa and Gila counties, as well as the Arizona Department of Public Safety, U.S. Air Force Civil Air Patrol and other volunteers were called out. According to sources, SSAR has been told to “Stand down” by Babeau since he took office in January 2009. “It’s very difficult to explain,” Villar said about the relationship between SSAR and the sheriff’s office. “There have been some internal issues in the past. I think it has to do with personality conflicts between people. Because of that, associations have become counterproductive. They have a tendency to interfere with the productivity, she said. Sheriff Babeau defeated former Sheriff Chris Vasquez in last year’s election. The founder and commander of SSAR, Robert Cooper, supported Vasquez in that race.
Cooper declined to comment for this story, but Villar stressed, “It’s not political.” Villar explained the two organizations are working together to mend fences. “What they’re working on right now is internal policy within the sheriff’s office to govern searches and we’re in the process of reorganizing search and rescue ourselves,” she said. “Because of those changes and the issues that have occurred in the past, I know that the sheriff has met with Superstition. I wasn’t at the meeting, so I don’t know all the goings on of all of the meeting. I do know that we’re not going to push away any resources, unless that resource becomes combative, or their participation becomes counterproductive because of whatever personal issues or internal conflicts there may be.”
Villar said the hope is that the sheriff’s office will use SSAR again. “We are hoping that they are a resource we’ll be able to use again,” she said. “Right now we have to work with them and their board of directors and create an intergovernmental agreement or memorandum of understanding about how these searches will function and who’s ultimately responsible and whatnot.” Superstition Search and Rescue is not a governmental entity but a 15-year-old all-volunteer organization that has worked with Pinal County during the last three sheriffs as well as an interim sheriff.
According to its Web site, the primary purpose of this volunteer organization is to assist individuals who may experience wilderness-related problems. These range from incidents such as falls or medical emergencies, lost or overdue hikers, heat or cold exposure and more. “Our group is highly skilled in wilderness first-aid, technical rescue, orienteering and tracking,” the Web site states.
“These skills enable Superstition Search and Rescue members to safely and efficiently move patients from the field to appropriate medical service in the event of injury, or to their families, in the case of a lost or overdue hiker. We currently have approximately 25 volunteers that sacrifice their time and personal resources to assist those in need.” The organization has saved nearly 2,000 lives and has pulled only one dead body from the wilderness in 10 years.
However, a representative from Superstition Search and Rescue declined to comment on the record for this story. Villar said SSAR isn’t the only rescue team that has saved lives. “Our sheriff’s office that’s out there has also saved lives,” Villar said. “Maricopa County and all of their search and rescue teams have saved lives. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lives as well.
“I have no doubt or concerns that (sheriff’s office-affiliated) Pinal County Search and Rescue and the other five organizations that were participating did everything they could,” Villar said. “I have no doubt that all the sources were out there. They were technical rescue crews. They’ve been functioning for a very, very long time and have a very, very good track record.” She said they are “professional organizations with professional people working with them.”
Tate’s body was found only 150 yards from his motorcycle by an SSAR-trained man who was working for Sonoran Search and Rescue. The man was on the scene only 1 hour and 45 minutes when he discovered Tate’s body.
“It’s a shame that Mr. Tate did not survive,” Villar said."
A man's body may grow old, but inside his spirit can still be as young and restless as ever.
- Garth McCann from the movie Second Hand Lions
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