Updated: Body Of Overdue Hiker Found in Glacier National Park; Suicide Suspected
Glacier National Park officials say the overdue hiker whose body was found Wednesday evening in a rugged section of the park apparently committed suicide.
The man has been identified as Bruce Colburn, 53, of Reading, Pennsylvania. According to the Flathead County Coroner’s Office, Mr. Colburn’s death is considered a suicide caused by a self-inflicted single gunshot wound to the chest.
Park rangers searching the ground near the head of Kintla Lake, in the park’s remote northwest corner, found a pack matching the description of Mr. Colburn’s pack (grayish in color) at approximately 4 p.m. on Wednesday. That information was relayed to personnel conducting an aerial search via Minuteman Helicopter and Mr. Colburn’s body was found within minutes on a slope above the trail from where this pack was found.
Park officials say it appeared that Mr. Colburn had left the Kintla Lake trail and scrambled upslope to a point approximately one-quarter to one-third of a mile above the lake.
Search efforts were under way Wednesday afternoon for a follow-up day of concentrated searching in the Kintla Lake and Upper Kintla Lake drainages when Mr. Colburn's body was found. Plans for continued ground and aerial searching as well as tracking by cadaver dog teams were immediately canceled when a positive identification was confirmed.
The body was found as park officials were getting ready to release a missing person poster and ask the public's help in looking for the man.
More than 30 people were involved in Wednesday’s search, including National Park Service personnel, U.S. Border Patrol agents, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue personnel, and the FBI. Wednesday’s operation involved both ground and aerial search efforts throughout the Kintla Lake and Upper Kintla Lake drainages and surrounding areas for clues to the man’s whereabouts.
Initial NPS search efforts began on October 23 after Mr. Colburn failed to call for a pick up from an acquaintance as expected. The man had flown to the Flathead Valley on October 7. The next day, he was dropped off in the park’s North Fork area near Kintla Lake. That day, he was contacted by a park ranger at the Kintla Lake Campground where he planned to spend the night. He told the ranger he intended to go hiking in the park. He was told that a backcountry permit is required to camp overnight in the park’s backcountry. The next morning he had left the campsite.
The park staff had no other contact with the man since the morning of October 9. The man did not obtain a park backcountry permit.
Late last week, park officials were contacted by the acquaintance who had dropped Mr. Colburn off in the park. The man left luggage and belongings at an area hotel and indicated that he would be in contact in a couple of weeks. The individual became concerned when there was no word from the man after two weeks and called the park. Prior to this notification, the NPS had received no notification or indication that the man was missing.