Missing hiker identified; overnight attempts to find him unsuccessful

Man disappeared Sunday north of Durango wearing shorts, tank top

Melikai Hesse, 23, of La Plata County, has been missing in the Haviland Lake area north of Durango since Sunday. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Facebook

Melikai Hesse, 23, of La Plata County, has been missing in the Haviland Lake area north of Durango since Sunday.

Overnight attempts to find a missing hiker, whose identity was released Tuesday morning, were unsuccessful, according to La Plata County Search and Rescue mission coordinator Ron Corkish.

The hiker, who has been missing since separating from his group Sunday on a hike in the Haviland Lake area north of Durango, has been identified as 23-year-old Melikai Hesse, of La Plata County.

Corkish said a Black Hawk helicopter from the New Mexico National Guard, equipped with night vision and thermal detection, was unable to provide any additional clues Monday night.

The Black Hawk helicopter will embark on a day mission, starting Tuesday morning, to continue the aerial aspect of the search. Flight for Life, which flew three missions Monday, may be engaged if necessary, Corkish said.

On the ground, about 14 search-and-rescue personnel will continue searching for Hesse, specifically in new areas outside the primary search area established since Sunday.

“At this point, we’ll continue to search and look,” Corkish said. “And we’re hoping for a miracle.”

According to previous reports, Hesse was on a hike with friends Sunday afternoon near Haviland. When the group decided to turn back after walking less than a quarter mile, Hesse, desiring a longer hike, continued on, Corkish said.

Hesse was wearing only a tank top and shorts, and did not have proper outdoor gear. Overnight lows on Sunday and Monday dipped into the lower 20s, adding urgency for searchers.

“The subject (Hesse) is really not prepared to be in the outdoors at all,” said Corkish, adding that the man has never hiked in this particular area. “We’ve had a lot of resources in a short amount of time. Where could this lad be?”

As the search enters day three, Dan Bender, spokesman for La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said all possibilities are being investigated, as is the case with any search that goes beyond 24 hours.

“Most search-and-rescue missions are accomplished within a matter of 24 hours,” he said. “But it’s not unusual to go beyond that.”

Bender asked anyone with information on the whereabouts of Hesse to call La Plata County Sheriff’s Office investigator James Hendricks at 382-7018.

Attempts to reach Hesse’s family were not immediately successful.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

View other articles on our locator map.

A Black Hawk crew from the New Mexico National Guard was unable to find any new clues on a night mission Monday. The Black Hawk will try again on a day mission Tuesday. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Dan Bender

A Black Hawk crew from the New Mexico National Guard was unable to find any new clues on a night mission Monday. The Black Hawk will try again on a day mission Tuesday.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story