A massive search effort to locate a California resident who mysteriously disappeared in Death Valley earlier this month come to a tragic conclusion Tuesday.
George Kohler, a 67-year-old San Francisco resident who went missing in Death Valley March 12, was found deceased Tuesday afternoon between Mesquite Spring Campground and Scotty’s Castle Road.
“It appears that Mr. Kohler left the campfire and took off cross-country on foot,” said Inyo Count Search and Rescue Coordinator Corporal Terry Waterbury.
Inyo County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Carma Roper said Kohler was located within a two-mile expanse of desert between the road and campground.
It is currently unknown why Kohler began walking through the desert.
“There is not a store out there or anything,” Roper said. “At this point, it would be speculation to say that he was going somewhere” specific.
Kohler had been exploring Death Valley with a bicycle touring group and was last seen at a campfire at the Mesquite Spring Campground at about 8 p.m. Monday, March 12.
Authorities believe Kohler signed up for the tour group alone and, aside from tour group members he met, he did not have a companion with him in Death Valley.
“According to interviews conducted with the bicycle group, Kohler departed from the campfire after saying he was tired,” a press release from the Sheriff’s Department states. “In the morning, when Kohler did not meet up with the rest of the group, his tent was opened up; but there was no sign of Kohler or any indication that he slept in his tent.”
A massive, multi-agency search was launched when Kohler was reported missing on Tuesday, March 13.
The search effort included the Inyo County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Death Valley National Park, California Rescue Dog Association, San Bernardino Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Kern County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Mono County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue and Tulare County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue.
Air support was provided by Nellis Air Force Base, China Lake Naval Weapons Base and the California Highway Patrol.
“At this time foul play is not suspected,” the press release states. “An autopsy has been scheduled and cause of death will be determined by the Inyo County Coroner.”
Kohler was a personal, certified fitness trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Roper noted previously that as a personal trainer, Kohler was in “very good shape,” and considered healthy for his age.