Body of mountain biker believed located 8 months after disappearance above Tahoe
Nevada Appeal News Service
Eight months after he disappeared from a mountain bike trip that may have been interrupted by a snowstorm, Andrew Sewell’s body was found Sunday by search teams canvassing an area above Echo Summit, authorities said.
At 12:50 p.m. a mountain bike and backpack containing Sewell’s driver’s license was found about 250 yards from the microwave tower at the top of Scout Peak, which has an elevation of 8,600 feet.
Human remains consisting only of “long bones” and torn clothes were found yards away from the backpack and bicycle, according to El Dorado County sheriff’s Deputy Mike Sukau, a search and rescue leader.
Nine bones were found in all, with a few located at the bike and others scattered in a 100-yard radius, said sheriff’s Detective Greg Almos, another head of the search team.
Authorities are unsure how the 59-year-old from Rio Vista died. Sukau said the bicycle’s fork was bent, possibly indicating a crash or nothing more than the heavy winter snowload.
Although authorities believe the remains are Sewell’s, the bones will be DNA-tested for verification.
The backpack contained little, if anything, for survival: a flashlight, wallet, medication and a bike repair kit.
Sukau said the search, which began around 7 a.m., was planned for a day when resources would be available and the snowpack melted at high elevation. Patches of snow were spotted near the remains, he said.
The search involved 35 volunteers, two helicopters from CalSTAR and California Highway Patrol, dog teams, foot teams and off-road teams, according to Sukau.
Sewell vanished Oct. 17 when he left his Ford Aerostar at Little Norway for a mountain bike trip. The van was found buried under so much snow that a Caltrans plow had to be called upon to free the vehicle.
Three to 4 feet of snow dropped before El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department received notice of Sewell being overdue from his trip.
The same blizzard stranded nearly two dozen hikers and climbers across Northern California in October, including two Japanese climbers killed on Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan, The Associated Press reported.
When the van was turned on, the wipers were on low, perhaps indicating the weather was turning when Sewell began his trip.
Two helicopters, 25 people, a snowmobile and dog team were used in a search days after Sewell disappeared. Sukau said the area where the remains were found was covered in the initial search but were likely missed because of the snow.
“It was a difficult search because we didn’t have any route plans for him,” Sukau said. “We just had where his van was.”