Rabbit Ears Pass Sean F. Ryan's body was found Tuesday night by his family and friends in the rugged wilderness of Rabbit Ears Pass.
The discovery came hours after the Routt County Sheriff's Office and multiple search and rescue crews suspended their exhaustive search for Ryan, who was reported missing Sunday afternoon.
Officials did not provide a cause of death late Tuesday night, but they do not suspect foul play. Officials were concerned Ryan was depressed when he went missing.
The search for Ryan, 49, began Monday afternoon when his blue Dodge pickup was found parked in a secluded U.S. Highway 40 turnoff on Rabbit Ears Pass about six miles from Steamboat. He last was seen by his wife, Kim Ryan, at 11 p.m. Saturday in their Steamboat Springs home. She reported her husband missing Sunday afternoon after she woke up and he wasn't there.
Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said Ryan's body was found between one-quarter and one-half mile from where his truck was found. He added that the search team of family and friends was on its way out of the woods at about 7 p.m. Tuesday when they found Ryan's body in an area that had extremely thick cover.
Deputies and Routt County Search and Rescue crews recovered the body from the difficult terrain late Tuesday.
"They're obviously very upset," Wiggins said about Ryan's family and friends, who gathered at the turnoff where his truck was found and awaited the recovery of his body. "The Sheriff's Office and Search and Rescue members are all here to support them at this difficult time. (Ryan's death) is a reality, and they're dealing with it."
An exhaustive search
Sheriff's Office deputies — aided by 25 search and rescue volunteers from Routt County, Larimer County, Vail and the Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States — spent Monday and Tuesday navigating the difficult terrain as they searched for the missing man.
They also were aided by five additional scent dogs that came to help from as far away as Larimer and Boulder counties.
Kim Sadar and her 8-year-old golden retriever, Stoner, woke up early Tuesday to participate in the search that started at 7 a.m. Rescue teams hoped Ryan's scent could be detected in the morning.
Sadar's dog led her across the highway north from Ryan's truck and into Routt National Forest.
For three hours, she and the dog scanned for any sign of Ryan as four other teams with dogs focused their searches on the south side of the highway and down the steep, wooded hills that sprawl for miles until they end at Lake Catamount.
But when the search was suspended at 2 p.m. Tuesday, no searcher had found any trace of Ryan.
“It's just a very large area with a lot of obstacles and a lot of growth,” Sadar said when she returned to the highway. “It's difficult to get through it all and search out here.”
When the search began Monday, Sheriff's Office deputies, 12 Search and Rescue volunteers and five scent dogs searched for Ryan until 10:30 p.m., when it became too dark to continue safely, Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch said.
“A needle in a haystack probably describes it pretty soundly,” Birch said about the search operation. “It's a super vast area with hundreds of areas you cannot access to search.”
When the search resumed at 7 a.m. Tuesday, crews focused their operation around the Harrison Creek drainage south of the highway.
Ryan's family and friends also spent several hours each day helping with the search.
“They really care about the guy,” Birch said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com