A Silverton man last seen in Montrose on Dec. 12 was discovered dead off Red Mountain Pass in Ouray County Tuesday afternoon, just hours after family members in Texas began contacting media to raise awareness about his disappearance.
Ouray County Coroner Colleen Hollenbeck confirmed to the Montrose Daily Press the body is that of Howard Drake, 83.
Authorities earlier on Tuesday said a man’s body had been found near the Bear Creek area. The Ouray County Plaindealer reported the highway had been partly closed to allow authorities to recover a vehicle from 600 feet below.
The death remained under investigation late Tuesday night. Cause of death was not immediately available.
“It was Howard. (The) sheriff contacted his brother. Howard was my uncle,” Paula Nerren Gartman wrote on the Daily Press’ Facebook alert concerning Drake’s disappearance.
“Uncle Bubba’s car went off the road and down the mountain. He did not survive,” Gartman added on her own page.
Drake was an avid marathoner, his niece Lisa Drake Chester told the Daily Press Tuesday morning, as his family tried to spread the word that he was missing. She said another family member had received a call early that morning, advising him that Drake had not been seen since Dec. 12.
According to Chester, who could not be reached late Tuesday after the coroner’s confirmation, Drake had gone to Montrose that day, picked up some medication, then met up with a friend.
He departed in his red Chevy Equinox at about 4:30 p.m. Dec. 12, with instructions from his friend to call when he was back home.
“He never did. He left his cell phone at his house. He didn’t have it with him. If he was in a situation where he needed help, he didn’t have a way to contact anybody,” Chester said.
She said after her uncle’s friend failed to hear from him, the friend called one of Drake’s neighbors, who checked the home. The neighbor found burst pipes, a clear indication Drake had not been home.
Montrose Police Sgt. Billy Stroup investigated the missing persons report and alerted law enforcement agencies across the Western Slope, including the Colorado State Patrol.
Police determined Drake had another residence in Pleasant View. Stroup said authorities had hoped Drake diverted from his planned route due to the weather on Dec. 12 and gone to the Pleasant View residence. But when Montezuma County officials checked the address, Drake was not there.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist and the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.