After being missing for almost two weeks, Grand Teton National Park officials are scaling back the search efforts for 27-year-old Cian McLaughlin.
The decision to move to a “continuous but limited” search for the Dublin native would have been a difficult one for park officials to make, according to a former assistant secretary for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who also served as a park ranger.
“From my experience in the parks service, they take missing and injured visitors very seriously,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “The parks staff are well-trained and equipped to search for people.”
It was believed McLaughlin intended to go hiking early last week. He was last seen at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, about one-half mile from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, where his vehicle was found Sunday.
On Wednesday, rangers received a report of someone seeing a man fitting McLaughlin’s description around 3:45 p.m. on June 8 hiking up the Garnet Canyon trail, so search teams began to look in that area late last week.
Since McLaughlin disappeared, up to 70 park staff per day have been involved in the search for him, which has included the use of helicopters, dog teams and special rescue teams scaling the park’s steep mountainsides.
However, since no one has found a trace of McLaughlin in a week, Wallace said park officials had to make the decision to scale back efforts.
“At some point, you’ve done everything you know how to do,” he said. “I know the team here is top-notch and have done everything they’ve can to look for him. Your heart just goes out to his friends and family who are anxiously waiting to hear anything.”
The scaled back search will involve park staff continuing to investigate new clues as they are presented and patrolling the park’s backcountry for signs of McLaughlin.
Wallace said while it is not uncommon for people to be reported as missing in the parks, due either to getting lost or becoming injured, it is more unusual for them not to be found at all.
“Having been a park ranger in this area, I know that this has been a top, professional effort to find this gentleman,” Wallace said.
McLaughlin works as a snowboard instructor in Jackson, a job he has held since December.