The Tragic Three-Day Disappearance of Hiker Eric Fernandes on Camelback Mountain

Categories: News

camelback-stern-7.jpg
Ray Stern
Cliffs near where Fernandes' body was located on June 3.
The oven-like heat of the late-May afternoon stunned the young Seattle man when he stepped outside of his car.

In the parking lot of the Glendale motel, Eric Fernandes, 23, put his hand near the grill of his red Pontiac Grand Prix. "Dad, I think the car's overheating," he blurted.

"No," said his father, Maximo Fernandes, 65. "Cars feel like that here in the summer."
On Wednesday, May 28, the day they arrived in the Valley of the Sun during a road trip from Washington, the official temperature was 106. They never had experienced the heat of the Phoenix metro area. They were in town to visit one of Eric's friends, Ryan, whom Eric had met while playing an online video game.

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Eric Fernandes, from his Facebook page.
Eric Fernandes, thin and fit with a slight build and a close-trimmed, black beard with no mustache, soon lost whatever concern for the heat he'd had. After lunch the next day, Eric told his father he planned to hike Camelback Mountain's rugged Echo Canyon Trail and even invited his old man to join him.

Maximo declined, saying it was too hot for him -- and maybe even for Eric.
"Dad, trust me. I can make it anytime," his son told him.

About 1:30 p.m., Eric drove to a sporting goods store and bought a Camelbak-style hydration backpack. A few minutes later, he went to a grocery store and picked up a couple of small bottles of vitamin water.

See Also: Camelback Mountain Combines Beauty, History, and Adventure in One Fragile Phoenix Park

With the blazing sun high overhead, Eric parked his car in the Echo Canyon parking lot near Tatum Boulevard and McDonald Drive. He wore Vans sneakers and didn't have a hat. No matter -- it was only 1.5 miles to the summit. He set off on the steep trail.

Sometime on that 108-degree afternoon, another hiker saw Eric at or near the top of the 2,704-foot peak. She noticed that he was very sweaty and looked tired.

It was the last time anyone would see Eric alive.

Long after darkness had fallen and the air had cooled to the mid-80s, Eric's Pontiac sat under the looming silhouettes of Echo Canyon's sandstone cliffs. It was there when the sun rose on Sunday morning.

Back at the Knight's Inn motel, Max's worry grew. His son, one of three, was a graduate of the University of Washington's Department of Chemistry in Seattle. He was a grown man, and grown men sometimes stayed out all night. Max had been concerned when Eric didn't come home Saturday afternoon but figured he was probably at Ryan's. Now it was Sunday morning, and he made plans to begin their long drive home at 10 a.m.

Something had to be wrong: Max discovered that Eric's mobile phone was either dead or shut off.

He drove to Ryan's. Eric wasn't there. They called police. Just before 4 p.m. on Sunday -- more than 24 hours after Eric started the hot hike -- rangers confirmed that Eric's car was still in the parking lot. Several rangers started looking for him on the mountain's main paths -- Echo Canyon Trail and Bobby's Rock loop on the mountain's west side, and Cholla Trail on the east. A Phoenix police helicopter began circling the 400-acre park.

A general description of Eric was conveyed to dozens of recreational hikers going up and down the trails, with the request to keep an eye out for him. If a 23-year-old man had collapsed or cried out for help on Echo Canyon Trail, which receives an estimated 750,000 visitors a year, surely someone would notice and call 911.

But after nobody reported seeing him, it was clear that Eric was perilously lost on one of the most popular hiking trails in America's sixth-largest city.


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33 comments
AuroraL
AuroraL

Hmm maybe a suicide....

rh19541954
rh19541954

As a old US Marine retired, the hardest two environments I had to take survival training in was desert the worst, cold weather comes in second, first one makes one realize death by dehydration can take as little as 3 days, and extreme cold can kill nearly as fast without heat! Neither situations would I suggest testing ones survival skills in, since even the best and most experienced can die if circumstances go wrong!

rh19541954
rh19541954

Hiking at anytime unprepared whether it be any season is unwise, but in summer time is ultimate foolishness, death wish!

Carolina Ruffino
Carolina Ruffino

Again phoenix police officers lying to make themselves look good… It's the hikers that never gave up and continued to search for him good job guys I'm proud of you I hope you guys are there if I ever go missing. You can't count on the Police Department for anything. They are just a bunch of crooks ....

Tony Morales
Tony Morales

I have the time just not the tolerance for a publication so blatantly chasing click thru rates.

Shawn Pahl
Shawn Pahl

Your attempted humor is falling on deaf ears… Why don't you just unfollowed them then you won't have to read it?

Shawn Pahl
Shawn Pahl

Extremely well-written article that points out the flaws involving fire/civilian search teams in the Phoenix area. There are definitely some lessons to be learned here

Shawn Pahl
Shawn Pahl

I'm sorry you don't have the time to read an article for 12 minutes.

Steve Stunatra
Steve Stunatra

Stop going hiking in the middle of summer you idiots!

Seamus Thomas
Seamus Thomas

Scary and Sad. Don't hike here in summer. Not id you dont have company, water n experience.

Dave Miller
Dave Miller

NT hasn't been a relevant print media in decades, it's a Tragic Three- Decade Disappearnace of a once informative Rag

David Metzler
David Metzler

One of the worst tragedies I have dealt with as a Ranger. Thank you to the members of Camelback X-T-R-E-M-E Team for all your efforts in searching and returning Eric to his family....Francesca Pasquale and John SFriend Book

Tommy Richards
Tommy Richards

Camelback Mountain X-T-R-E-M-E team found him. David Metzler led the way.

Cosmic Sea
Cosmic Sea

I was at the news conference and going up when the hikers spotted him. It was very sad.

Amber Owens
Amber Owens

Another lost life over ignorance. Sad

James Fowler
James Fowler

the story sums up my personal observations to a tee.

csteve59
csteve59

up to I looked at the check of $8452 , I have faith ...that...my brother was really earning money in there spare time on their apple labtop. . there moms best frend has done this less than 9 months and resantly took care of the debts on their cottage and bourt a gorgeous Renault 5 . hop over to here 


========>>>>  MON­­E­­­Y­­­­KI­­­­­N.C­O­M

Brian Ofalaska Stetson
Brian Ofalaska Stetson

I once encountered an elderly demented man on camelback who had accidentally a climbed an 80 foot high vertical cliff. He tried to follow me down when I set up for rappel. I had to put him in a harness and lower him off the feature known to climbers as the Headwall.

Molly Corral
Molly Corral

I feel for the family. But even as an Arizona native I would never hike in the middle of the summer in the middle of the day.

Stephen Sperry
Stephen Sperry

@ian that morning I was there with 100 others waiting for them to open camelback and no one said anything about a missing hiker. I know every one of us would've been scouring that mountain.

Lizziejane Scott
Lizziejane Scott

Born & raised in AZ but I won't hike in the summer , az sun Is not to be trifled with ...

Richard Garrison
Richard Garrison

Who dares conquer the treacherous outback of Camelback mountain!

Ian Calder Drummond
Ian Calder Drummond

Good gravy. You could get 1000 or more experienced hikers out there at 5 am if they knew of a missing person on that trail.

Tony Morales
Tony Morales

This is actually a story I would be interested in reading, in fact, the 1st page is pretty good but I REFUSE to click thru SEVEN pages to read it...

TommyCollins
TommyCollins topcommenter

Sad story. Sad incident. I hope someone learns from it. 

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

The search for Fernandes was hampered by a series of miscalculations and wrong assumptions on the part of police and fire officials. It is simply incredible (except that it happened) that they would not allow volunteer groups to help look for him. As for Baby Boo telling the Superstition guys he'd arrest them if they dared to show up is just criminal. You, Pauley, are a friggin' j.o. But again, let's hook up a Flex some night.

Pauliejuanakraquer
Pauliejuanakraquer

I know a lot of readers of Phoenix NT are from out of state..  Please, please! Don't hike anywhere out here without at least a gallon of water (minimum). Tell someone where you're going.. And next to that, bring a whistle - This guy could have signaled with it even with a dry throat and the inability to speak. Wear a hat. Best to forgo hiking anywhere in Summer..


And NEVER depend on anything with batteries, be it a cellphone or a Garmin. Good to take with, but don't rely on just that.

hesinabetterplace
hesinabetterplace

that's an awfully long story about a simple instance of natural selection.

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