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Contact: Julie Johndreau, (605) 433-5242
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, S.D. — The search for 54 year old Harold Hayes of Ina, Illinois continues today at Badlands National Park. Hayes’ pickup truck has been parked at Sage Creek Basin Overlook, a popular backcountry access point, since Saturday morning. During a routine check of the vehicle, park rangers discovered no evidence that Hayes was planning to camp in the area. Hayes had not registered at the backcountry self-registration/permit station at the overlook. Further investigation involving the Jefferson County, IL Sheriff’s Department and information from the missing man’s family led to increased concern for his welfare. On Tuesday morning, an extensive search including a South Dakota State Highway Patrol helicopter, two Rapid City Police K9 search teams, and twenty eight foot-patrol searchers from Pennington County Search and Rescue, Badlands National Park, and Minuteman National Historic Site, was conducted. No significant clues were found. Additional searchers from Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Wind Cave National Park arrived Wednesday morning.
Wednesday’s ground search will focus on the wooded draws and steep drainages around the Battleship and Hay Butte areas of the Sage Creek Wilderness. The terrain is rugged and steep. A helicopter is on stand-by. The temperature is 31 degrees and north winds are gusting to 20 mph. Park officials and family members are very concerned. "We hope to find Mr. Hayes alive and well today." said incident commander Stan Buchanan. Hayes is 5 feet 11 inches and weighs 230 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes. He has no known health conditions, although he is not particularly physically fit. It is unlikely that he was prepared for the winter weather and extreme conditions of the Badlands.
The Badlands Wilderness Area consists of 64,144 acres, or over 25% of the total park. There are no established trails through the Wilderness Area. Many explorers utilize the bison trails that meander through the prairie and skirt the badland formations. Others simply choose a destination and attempt to traverse the terrain as safely as possible.