After Six Months Of Searching For A Missing Woman, A Drone Leads Authorities To Something Remarkable

In November of 2020, a woman disappeared on the Dry Canyon Trailhead in Diamond Fork Canyon, located about an hour outside Salt Lake City, Utah. Her car was abandoned at a campground, and the Utah County Sheriff’s Office deputies found nothing but an old tent on the trail.

Nearly six months later, a drone crashed and found the impossible.

The Location Was Diamond Fork Canyon, Utah

Located outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, Dry Canyon Trailhead in Diamond Fork Canyon attracts many hikers, campers, and wilderness lovers each day.

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By Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
By Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

With campgrounds and hikes to beautiful hot springs, it is one of the hidden gems of Utah. Sadly, in 2020, a woman went missing on the trail.

A Search Began After Her Car Was Found Abandoned

It was November of 2020 when a 47-year-old woman ventured onto the Dry Canyon Trailhead in Diamond Fork Canyon. Unlike other day hikers, she did not make it back to the parking lot.

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Utah County Sheriff’s Office
Utah County Sheriff’s Office

The search began the same day as her disappearance after US Forest Service officials found her car abandoned at one of the trails campgrounds.

A Question Of Mental Health

After investigating the surrounding area and the campground where the woman’s car was left, detectives concluded — the missing woman might struggle with mental health.

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Garrett Parker/Unsplash
Garrett Parker/Unsplash

During an interview, one of the detectives on the scenes said they gathered information “that suggested this woman might struggle with mental health challenges.” Co-workers would later corroborate this information.

Volunteers Joined The Search

The conclusion brought more people onto the scene, wanting to help find the woman lost in the vast wilderness of the trail and canyon.

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Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Along with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office deputies, search and rescue volunteers began scouring the area, hoping to find some clues about where the woman might be.

An Abandoned Tent

Sadly, no one in the search party came up with anything; they had no clue where the woman ventured off to, or why.

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Cristofer Maximilian/Unsplash
Cristofer Maximilian/Unsplash

The only thing that gave any semblance that she might have passed through was an abandoned tent tucked away in the foliage. No one was there, though, and they couldn’t be certain it even belonged to the missing woman.

Did She Want To Be Found?

Eventually, authorities concluded that the missing woman didn’t want to be found. They believe she voluntarily left her car and wandered into the wilderness of Diamond Fork Canyon. The question was, why?

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Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

They didn’t even have people to contact to gain information on the missing woman. At the time, it was nothing more than a waiting game, hoping a clue or trace of her would show up.

They Were Not Going To Stop Looking

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the forest service were at a loss; they had no idea where the missing woman could be. It didn’t help that Diamond Canyon was so vast either. She could be anywhere.

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Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Even so, they didn’t give up hope that one day they would find her.

Searching By The Ground And The Air

In a press release, Sergeant Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office spoke of what they had found, or didn’t find, on the trail.

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Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

He said, “Detectives and Search and Rescue officials with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) searched the area by ground and from the air but could not find anyone.”

Telephone Records And Potential Trip To Colorado

After the trail led to a dead-end, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office decided to dive into some detective work. They decided the next best plan of attack was to check telephone records and see if they could pinpoint her location.

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Volodymyr Hryshchenko/Unsplash
Volodymyr Hryshchenko/Unsplash

What they found suggested she made her way to Colorado after leaving her car and camping apparatus behind.

A Months-Long Search That Led Nowhere

While the Utah County Sheriff’s Office met another dead end with the telephone records, not believing she had made her way to Colorado, they decided to try and identify her family.

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Daniel Schäfer/picture alliance via Getty Images
Daniel Schäfer/picture alliance via Getty Images

With the information they had accumulated, they were unable to find anyone. According to Sergeant Cannon, “Over the next several months, efforts were made to identify and contact family without success.”

Co-Workers Cooborated The Detectives’ Hunch

While they were unable to contact family members, the sheriff’s department was able to locate co-workers. The co-workers corroborated what they had already thought, that she did, in fact, struggle with mental illness.

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Geography Photos/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Geography Photos/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

They didn’t know why she would wander into the Diamond Canyon area or where she would have gone.

An Aerial Team Came Into The Mix

It took several months, but the department finally put together a team comprised of a Utah County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, a search and rescue coordinator, and a group from a nonprofit aerial search organization.

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Lennart Preiss/picture alliance via Getty Images
Lennart Preiss/picture alliance via Getty Images

They hoped to find some evidence leading them to the missing woman, which would help them locate her.

Covering More Ground

The team began searching with high hopes that she was still in the Diamond Canyon area. The aerial team had brought along a drone, something that would help them cover way more ground in a shorter amount of time.

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Hu Xiaofei/VCG via Getty Images
Hu Xiaofei/VCG via Getty Images

Unfortunately, on their first attempt to use the technology, it crashed.

The Drone Crashed

Speaking of the crash to Fox 13, Sergeant Cannon said, “They sent the drone up, and apparently, on one of its first passes, the drone crashed. So they went up looking for the drone that had crashed…”

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Camilo Freedman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Camilo Freedman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

They didn’t anticipate the crashed drone actually helping them in their efforts to find the missing woman.

There Was A Tent At The Crash Site

When the team set off to retrieve the crashed drone, they stumbled upon a tent. “So they went up looking for the drone that had crashed, and in doing that, they came across another small campsite where there was a tent,” Sergeant Cannon told Fox 13.

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Utah County Sheriff’s Office
Utah County Sheriff’s Office

Amazingly, this tent’s zipper opened up, and a face popped out.

A Head Popped Out Of The Tent

Sergeant Cannon told Fox 13, “As they’re looking at this, the zipper of the tent unzipped, and this woman who we had identified the previous year in November and December of last year sticks her head out.”

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Utah County Sheriff’s Office
Utah County Sheriff’s Office

They had found the missing woman, whose name had not been released to the public.

She Foraged For Food And Had A Water Source

According to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, “This woman… had lost a significant amount of weight and was weak, but she was apparently also resourceful.”

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Utah County Sheriff’s Office
Utah County Sheriff’s Office

It looked as though she had rationed the food she brought along, as well as foraged for grass and moss to eat. There was even a river close by for water.

They Brought Her To A Hospital

After seeing the woman in her makeshift home, authorities believed she knew what she was doing. She purposefully left her car behind to live in Diamond Canyon.

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Reagan Frey/Getty Images
Reagan Frey/Getty Images

Even so, the deputies were not going to leave her there and decided to bring the 47-year-old to Utah Valley Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

After Nearly Six Months In The Wilderness, She’s A Survivor

During an interview, Sergeant Cannon said, ‘”I have to be honest, we fully expected we wouldn’t find anybody related to that alive up here given how long it had been… In situations like that, we often find somebody after they passed away.”

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Jake Melara/Unsplash
Jake Melara/Unsplash

“Our hats off to her as a survivor. Whatever else is going on in her life, her ability to survive in undoubtedly difficult circumstances is remarkable.” It had been nearly six months since the initial search.

No Laws Were Broken

While she was technically living in a public area, the sheriff’s department wanted to make it clear that what the woman did was not against any law.

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Jon Flobrant/Unsplash
Jon Flobrant/Unsplash

In a statement, they said, “We want to be clear that while many people might choose to not live in the circumstances and conditions this woman did, she did nothing against the law.”