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Man missing in desert for three weeks survived on diet of frogs and roots


An autistic man survived in the desert for three weeks on a diet of frogs and roots, US authorities have said.

William Martin LaFever was discovered wandering in the Escalante Desert of southern Utah.

He had been missing for three weeks after attempting to walk from Boulder, Utah, to Page, Arizona - a distance of around 90 miles.

The 28-year-old, from Colorado Springs, told rescuers he survived by drinking water from the Escalante River and on whatever meagre food he was able to scavenge.

When rescuers found LaFever he was severely emaciated, and search and rescue workers said that he would not have survived another 24 hours.

It is thought that LaFever had travelled around 40 miles over at least three weeks according to estimates by the Garfield County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Becki Bronson said: “It is some of the most rugged, unforgiving terrain you will find anywhere on Earth, jagged cliffs, stone ledges, sandstone, sagebrush, juniper.”

“Where William was hiking, there just isn't anyone out there,” she said. “There are no people. There are no towns.”

Following a search and rescue operation LaFever was taken to a local hospital by helicopter.

His current condition is unknown.

Search and rescue workers said it was remarkable that LaFever was spotted and rescued.

Mr LaFever had called his father on June 6 or 7 to inform his that he was hiking in the Boulder area with his dog, but that some of his hiking equipment had been stolen and he had run out of money.

His father had told him to hitch a lift to Page where he would send him some money.

However, LaFever decided to attempt to walk the 90 mile journey instead.

On the journey his dog abandoned him and LaFever began dumping his hiking gear until all he had remaining was the clothes he was wearing when he was found.  The dog has not been seen since.

The phone call back in early June was the last time that any of the family members heard from LaFever. His sister reported him missing on Monday.

Deputy Ray Gardner, who took part in the operation to rescue Mr LaFever had fortuitously recently undergone a training course in search and rescue operations for people with autism.

The training had taught Gardner that autistic people are often naturally drawn to water.

The helicopter therefore focused on the Escalante River, where Mr LaFever was eventually spotted.