FLAGSTAFF – Sadly, searchers believe they have located the skeletal remains of 22 year old Thomas Lang who was originally reported as an overdue hiker on December 18, 2013. His parents have spent many weekends since the formal search was suspended, hiking areas where they believe their son might be located.
On Saturday, November 29, 2014 Thomas’s parents were searching for their son in the Secret Canyon area located within Yavapai County. Thomas’ mother, called the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue advising she believed she found a jacket and shoes that possibly belonged to her son.
Yavapai and Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue units coordinated a further search effort. The Arizona Department of Public Safety launched one of their Air Rescue Helicopters with a Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteer on board to conduct overflights of the area where the items were located. During the flight two additional items consistent with what Lang was believed to have taken with him on his backpacking trip were located from the air.
On Sunday morning a multi-agency intensive ground search was commenced. Agencies who assisted with the search included Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, Yavapai County Sheriff’s helicopter and Thomas Lang’s parents. At about 10:00 am the crew aboard the Yavapai Sheriff’s helicopter confirmed that the items spotted the previous day were a backpack, tarp, and a guitar. Teams from Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, including two search dogs, and Yavapai Sheriff’s Search and Rescue hiked in very rough and steep terrain reaching the items spotted from the air at approximately noon. At 12:45 pm the team located what they believed to be the remains of Thomas Lang.
The remains have not been positively identified and have been released to the Yavapai County Medical Examiner. The Yavapai County and Coconino County Medical Examiners are working together in an effort to identify the remains and determine the cause and manner of death.
The initial search was started after Lang’s father dropped him off at the Manzanita Campground on December 18, 2013 at about 11:00 am. It was Lang’s intention to hike in the area and return on December 22, 2013. When Lang did not return his family members called the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and reported him as a missing person. It was at this point that a multi-agency, intensive ground and air search was commenced.
Agencies and resources that were involved with the initial search efforts in 2013 included the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO), the YCSO Search and Rescue Unit, the YCSO helicopter, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), the CCSO Search and Rescue Unit, Lang’s parents, the Civil Air Patrol, the Maricopa County Search and Rescue Unit, the Mojave County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue Unit. The formal search was suspended on December 27, 2013 after an extensive five day search.
In addition to the initial search effort, the Civil Air Patrol flew over the search area and took photographs utilizing a high resolution camera in April 2014. On several different dates hikers reported seeing items that they believe might belong to the missing person. In response to these reports the YCSO helicopter flew multiple missions.
Until the recent discovery of items by Lang’s mother, all of the previously reported items were determined not to belong to Lang. Throughout 2014, both the YCSO and the CCSO Search and Rescue Units conducted numerous training missions in the area where Lang went missing with the dual purpose of training as well as possibly uncovering more clues about his disappearance. It is common to conduct training missions in areas where outstanding missing persons are believed to be.