Mono Sheriff Officials say that searchers have found the body of a man missing out of Pleastanton since November. It appears the man may have been caught by the larger than expected Thanksgiving storm that also trapped travelers in the White Mountains and at South Lake in the Sierra.
48-year-old Jay Lafontaine was reported overdue on December 4th after he failed to return from a camping to trip to Bodie and Death Valley on December 2nd as planned.
The last time he had contact with his family was on November 27th when he called his wife stating he planned to drive to Bodie where he would spend the night and then continue on to Death Valley.
Earlier in the week, the Pleasanton Police Department contacted the Mono Sheriffs Department to be on the lookout for Lafontaine. The missing man and his vehicle, a black Jeep Wrangler, was not located during the initial search. On Thursday, December 10, Sheriff officials report that the search continued, this time with help from a CHP helicopter. The black Jeep Wrangler was spotted on Forest Road 169, the dirt road that connects Bodie with Highway 167 on the north side of Mono Lake. The vehicle was stuck in the snow and unoccupied.
Mono County Sheriffs Deputies, with the assistance of Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue team members and Mineral County, NV, Search and Rescue team members, deployed snowmobiles to search the area, according to the Sheriffs Department.
Mono County Sheriff SAR team members found Lafontaine deceased on Forest Road 169, about 2.5 miles from his vehicle. Sheriff officials say that Lafontaine was the apparent victim of hypothermia. The exact cause of death is still under investigation.
Its unclear exactly what exactly led to this tragic outcome, but it appears that the driver became stuck in the snow and started to walk down the road toward Mono Lake, perhaps thinking that he was not expected home for days. Camping gear, like a tent, sleeping bag, and food were found inside the vehicle.
Thursday, November 26, was a pleasant day in the Eastern Sierra, but Friday night, the 27th a storm blew in coating the Bridgeport Area in snow. Earlier that week forecasters called for a light storm Friday night. It wasnt until Thursday that forecasters started to call for a wetter storm than expected. When the storm did arrive, areas of the Eastern Sierra were hit with well over a foot of new snow. Highway 395 north of Bridgeport was closed for a period of time Saturday the 28th.
Lafontaine was not the only person trapped in the backcountry by this storm. A group of hikers was rescued by snowcat in the White Mountains on November 29th. A backpacker hiked out to the trailhead at South Lake, near Bishop, only to find his vehicle snowed in. He was rescued by the Inyo SAR snowcat on November 30th.