Minn. Firefighters Resume Search for Father, Son Missing in Colorado

Updated: 07/14/2014 8:01 AM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough

Damian and Evan McManus
Damian and Evan McManus

There's a renewed effort to find a missing Minnesota father and son who are presumed dead in the Colorado mountains.

Fifty-one-year-old Damian McManus and his 18-year-old son, Evan McManus, both of St. Louis Park, were last heard from April 2 when they went to Mount Evans for a spring break hike. Authorities found their car in the parking lot at the base of the mountain.

Four firefighters from St. Louis Park, Edina and Eden Prairie are picking up where previous searches left off. The crew is voluntarily taking their experience as firefighters and mountain climbers to Colorado on Monday.

They tell KSTP they felt compelled to try to bring Damian and Evan home. "Now's the time, now's the time to push,"  said Hugo Searle of the St. Louis Park Fire Department. 

The Mount Evans area of the Colorado Rockies is finally snow-free, and there's a limited window of time, about 5 weeks, for seasoned searchers like Searle to find answers for a family mourning the unknown.

"The community's been hurting over this issue," Searle said. "It's part of my role as a firefighter to help where ever I can. Everything fits; this is what I need to do."

On Sunday, Searle set aside hiking and climbing gear he's used for high altitude climbs like this. The crew of four firefighters have studied search patterns, GPS and map grids. They know where previous Alpine rescue teams have looked before. 

On this three-day trip, they'll cover new ground. Searle says that because the passage of time and rugged terrain, this trek will be especially challenging.

"The terrain's very varied in that area of Colorado; there's a lot of trees," he said.

It's believed Damian and Evan McManus fell victim to a spring snow storm during their father-son adventure in April.  Although the local firefighters don't personally know the victims, they have the physical skills, training and the heart to do what they can to help.

"This family has a huge vacuum, a void they're trying to fill get some closure, and if our experienced guys can go there and search areas that haven't been searched for a while and add that closure, then why wouldn't we do it?" asked the St. Louis Park Fire Chief Steve Koering.

The firefighters are using their own personal time to make the trip. A donor is covering their airfare and expenses. Other volunteers have made trips to the mountain as well. 

On Sunday, Katherine McManus told KSTP she's grateful to everyone for their efforts. 

When the firefighters return on Friday, instead of four of them, they hope six are on the flight home to Minnesota.