Hiker survives being stranded for 14 days in Santa Fe National Forest

A man and his two children came to the hiker's rescue.

August 18, 2020, 7:13 PM

A man and his two children rescued a hiker who was stranded in a New Mexico forest for 14 days, according to authorities.

John Utsey was on a hike with his kids in the Santa Fe National Forest Saturday when they encountered the unidentified hiker, officials with the Santa Fe Fire Department said in a statement.

Utsey told Albuquerque ABC affiliate KRQE that he was calling out to his daughter who was leading the hike when he heard screaming from a man who was off the trail.

"He was lying beside a creek. His legs didn't -- he couldn't stand, he couldn't move, he was delirious. So he wasn't making much sense," Utsey told the station. "I was like, 'This guy really needs help.'"

Utsey and his children offered the man food and water, and then hiked three miles to call 911, he said. Utsey said he gave firefighters the GPS coordinates of where they found the missing man.

But firefighters could not initially locate the missing hiker and called off the search after eight hours, Captain Nathan Garcia of the Santa Fe Fire Department told KRQE.

Utsey, however, said he was determined to re-locate and rescue the lost hiker.

"So, at 9 o'clock Sunday morning I get in and put my hiking boots back on and hike back, and he was exactly where I left him," he said.

A hiker was found after he went missing for 14 days in the Santa Fe National Forest in Los Alamos, N.M., Aug. 17, 2020.
Santa Fe Fire Department

Utsey said he called 911 again and this time led rescuers to the hiker's spot. First responders built a fire to raise the man's temperature and provided him with food and water, according to the fire department.

"The man suffered from chronic back pain and again injured his back while hiking and could not stand or walk," the fire department said in its statement. "His gear was stolen, at which point he got lost and disoriented."

Garcia said the hiker, who is in his 50s, relied on his filtered water bottle for sustenance during his two-week ordeal.

"He would wiggle his way to the stream, he would drink water from the stream, and then wiggle his way away from the stream at nightfall because of the colder temperatures that the stream brought," he told KRQE.

The hiker is recovering at a Santa Fe hospital, fire department officials said.