[Editors Note: Sierra Wave has tried to stay on top of this story, and as with all search and rescue efforts, wish for the best outcomes. Unfortunately, that is not always the case despite the best efforts of our dedicated rescuers.]
Sadly, one of two missing campers from Tucson who were found on a remote, steep ledge in the Willow Creek area of Death Valley National Park died, officials said Friday afternoon. The Inyo Search and Rescue technical team found the couple 2 miles away from their destination through aerial reconnaissance of the extremely remote area.
The Inyo County sheriff’s office said it began searching for the couple on Tuesday after it received a report that they had not returned from their trip on April 4.
Authorities then found the couple’s missing white 2018 Subaru Forester on Thursday afternoon, April 8, at 11 a.m. with a note that read “two flat tires, headed to Mormon Point, have three days’ worth of water.” The mention in the note of where they were headed was very helpful in the search.
Alexander Lofgren, 32, was pronounced dead and Emily Henkel, 27, was hospitalized after the two were removed from the ledge at about noon on Friday, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. Henkel was flown to Lemoore Naval Air Station for treatment, and there was no immediate word on her condition.
Lofgren worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who represents Arizona’s 3rd District. Grijalva’s office released the following statement on Friday:
“To know Alex was to know someone who loved life, loved his family, and loved helping others. Words cannot begin to describe the void this immeasurable loss leaves in the hearts of his colleagues and his family.”
Grijalva went on to say. “Alex lived a life of service and always put the needs of others. The passion he dedicated to his work each day touched countless lives. No matter the situation, Alex met those he helped with a smiling face, a caring heart, and unrivaled empathy,” ending his statement with, “Grijalva said Lofgren will “forever be a part of our family, and my heart is with his family, his loving partner Emily, and his colleagues who mourn him today.”
Lofgren was also a former intern in the Office of Arizona U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Sher wrote on Twitter that Lofgren was “an absolutely stellar young man,” adding that, “He had a heart of gold and worked so hard for Arizona and our country. I’m sending so much love to his family and friends. May he rest in power.”
According to U.S.A. Today, Lofgren served four years in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer and deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, according to Grijalva. He also got his bachelor’s degree in political science from Arizona State University. During his fellowship, Lofgren worked as a caseworker with southern Arizona veterans on issues regarding Veterans Affairs health care, benefits and more, according to a 2019 statement.
Henkel worked as a contracted marketing assistant for the Arizona Army National Guard. Additional information was not immediately available, a spokesperson said.
The Sheriff’s Office credited Inyo County Search and Rescue, Death Valley National Park, Bureau of Land Management, and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for the rescue. The office also credited China Lake Naval Weapons Base, Lemoore Naval Air Station, Army National Guard, and the California Highway Patrol for aerial support,
—Final Press Release from Inyo County Sheriff’s Office—
INYO COUNTY, CA, APRIL 9, 2021 – At approximately 11:40am today Inyo County Search and Rescue team members were able to access the remote and steep ledge where missing campers Alexander Lofgren and Emily Henkel were located yesterday via aerial reconnaissance in the Willow Creek area of Death Valley National Park (DVNP).
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Alexander Lofgren is deceased; custody was transferred to the Inyo County Coroner. An investigation will follow to determine the cause and manner of death. Emily Henkel was located alive and flown out for medical treatment by Lemoore Naval Air Station.
The technical search and rescue that took place today followed a lengthy search throughout DVNP that was initiated Tuesday April 6, after Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received notification that Lofgren and Henkel had not returned by their due date of April 4.“This has been a tremendously difficult operation in a very unforgiving geographic area of Inyo County, I sincerely hope for healing and recovery for all involved,” stated Inyo County Sheriff Jeff Hollowell.
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the following assisting agencies: Inyo County Search and Rescue, Death Valley National Park, Bureau of Land Management, and CalOES. For aerial support we would like to thank China Lake Naval Weapons Base, Lemoore Naval Air Station, Army National Guard, and CHP.
*Original DVNP SAR press release and update from 4/8/21 can be accessed here: