A missing Gunnison college student is feared dead after a body and wreckage from a black Chevy Tahoe were located in the Black Canyon on Oct. 23.
The identity of the deceased individual has not been confirmed, but the circumstances and paperwork found amid the wreckage point to Walter “Kent” Jackson, 18, of North Carolina, Montrose County Coroner Dr. Thomas Canfield said.
Jackson’s parents raised the alarm with Western Colorado University staff on Oct. 21, after not being able to reach their son for several days, the university said on its Facebook page. When staff checked on Jackson, friends informed them they had not seen him since Oct. 19, in Gunnison. Jackson was said to have been driving a black Chevy Tahoe.
The staff attempted to see if Jackson had been attending classes or using campus facilities. He was then reported missing to the Gunnison Police Department, which searched for him, as did the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office and posse, once an initial cell phone location placed Jackson in an area northwest of Montrose County.
The MCSO was able to ping Jackson’s phone to an area east of Montrose the afternoon of Oct. 22, Sheriff Gene Lillard said.
“We were investigating the ping because it was located in a sector of (the Black Canyon). We were able to start a search in there with the assistance of the National Park Service,” he said.
Searchers located wreckage from a vehicle in rugged, inhospitable terrain and, about 900 to 1,000 feet down the cliffside, a body.
Formal identification is pending, as are cause and manner of death. The death remains under the investigation of the Gunnison Police Department, MCSO and Montrose County Coroner’s Office.
“Our heart goes out to the family and friends. We appreciate everyone that has helped out with this recovery. It’s very tragic,” Lillard said.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.