GRAND CANYON VILLAGE, Ariz. — Arizona firefighters battling a wildfire found a significant discovery in the case of a man who has been missing for almost a decade.
David Alford was last seen in 2014 in Idaho, but just a few weeks ago, his backpack was found in a remote spot along the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
"He was a free spirit, he liked to travel, he traveled all over the world," said David's big sister, Analee Reseigh.
David and Analee are two of six siblings and have a close, tight-knit family. She was the last person to see the then 36-year-old before he disappeared eight years ago.
"He stayed with us off and on through the years, and he'd been staying in Boise, and he wanted to head south," she recalled. "So, I dropped him off near the interstate because he was planning to hitchhike down south to Arizona, and then I thought he was headed to Mexico after that. He had a sign that said Arizona on one side and Utah on one side."
On Aug. 24, 2014, Analee she said she dropped David off on Interstate 84 near the Broadway or Vista exit in Boise. She said it's one Sunday morning she thinks about often.
"He's a spiritual person, and so I think he had planned to cut off communication, but we were all very surprised when we didn't hear from him a few months later, especially around the holidays," she said.
There have been no clues as to his whereabouts until July 25, when firefighters fighting the Dragon Fire on the Grand Canyon's North Rim found David's backpack.
"As work was being done to prepare containment lines around that fire, one of the fire crews preparing the road discovered a backpack in an area where visitors don't really travel; it's not a popular visitor area whatsoever," said Joelle Baird, a spokesperson for the Grand Canyon National Park.
From the Southern Rim, where most people visit, the area where David's backpack was found on the northern side is about a 4.5-hour drive. The closest large city nearby is Kanab, Utah, about an hour and a half away.
"This particular area is only accessible via a 4-wheel drive road," said Baird. "It's known as the W1 road, which is more or less an access road which gets people into the Inner Basin."
The backpack had personal items inside, like an ID that belonged to David. His sister said she was told it had been in that spot for a while.
"It had been gotten into by packrats; it had been a long time," she said. "Passport, social security card, and family phone numbers were there. I don't think he left the backpack, honestly."
The backpack was turned over to law enforcement rangers on the North Rim and was reported to Boise law enforcement, who is leading the case. Search and rescue crews also canvased the area over the next few days by foot for any other clues in the case.
"We weren't able to go very far in distance, but we had about 25 people assigned to the actual search effort," said Baird. "They were able to cover perhaps 370 acres over the period of a couple days and very challenging terrain, very overgrown brush. It's a remote area, it's higher in elevation between 8,000 and 9,000 feet. This particular area is only accessible via a 4-wheel drive road. It's known as the W1 road, which is more or less an access road which gets people into the inner basin. Not a lot of people go out there though."
It's unknown at this time if foul play is involved, but the investigation is ongoing.
"He got to the Grand Canyon, obviously, and he didn't walk," said Analee. "So we would just like to if somebody out there gave him a ride; we'd love to talk to that person to hopefully get more information that's really our goal right now."
And after eight years of uncertainty, they're hopeful something will turn up, so they don't have to wait another eight years for a loved one to be found.
His sister describes David as 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighing around 140 pounds, and having blue eyes. He didn't have hair initially; though it may have grown in over time, the color is brown.
She also said he had a skinny build and has a tattoo of the Capricorn sign on his ankle. He was 36 years old when he went missing, so he'd be 44 years old now. If you have any information, you're encouraged to call Boise police at 208-570-6000.
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