A slow, methodical search of the canyon-riddled backcountry in Grand Canyon National Park continues to come up empty in the search for a 43-year-old North Carolina man thought to have descended below the South Rim around August 31.
While ground crews resumed their efforts Tuesday in their search for Andrew Brunelli, of Clayton, North Carolina, aerial searches were being scaled back as the pilots were running out of new places to look.
The search for Mr. Brunelli was launched on September 4 after the Coconino County (Arizona) Sheriff's Office received a report that the man had not checked out of his hotel in Valle, Arizona, and that his belongings were still in the room. The next day Grand Canyon rangers found a blue Hyundai Accent rented in Mr. Brunelli’s name in the Grandview Point parking area on the South Rim of the park. Aerial and ground search efforts began in the Grandview-Hance area shortly thereafter.
Monday's search efforts included aerial search operations and ground teams searching trails, routes and drainages that can be reached from the Grandview and other connecting trails. In addition, two dog teams searched rim areas near the trailhead where vegetation and steep terrain inhibit human searchers; and technical ropes/canyoneering teams began searching steep narrow drainages where a hiker could have become "cliffed out," or stuck in one place by towering cliffs.
On Tuesday, while aerial operations were scaled back, ground teams continued to search drainages and areas with dense vegetation. Two dog teams were inserted into the Horseshoe Mesa area, a popular day hike destination; and the technical rope crews are continuing to search steep drainages and cliff areas.
In order to gain a better understanding of Mr. Brunelli’s plans while he was in the park, investigators have been asking the public to call in if they have any information on Mr. Brunelli’s itinerary or if they think they have seen him within the last eight days. Mr. Brunelli is described as 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds, with short medium-brown hair and grey-blue eyes. He may or may not be unshaven at this time.
If you believe that you might have seen Andrew Brunelli on August 31 or thereafter, please, contact the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center at 928-638-7805.