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Contact: Jim Ireland, 801-756-5239 ext. 101
Timpanogos Cave National Monument assists Utah County Sheriff with search for missing American Fork woman
Photos taken by a National Park Service (NPS) wildlife monitoring camera in February were posted this week on a private Facebook page dedicated to the search for Jerika Alvey Binks. The NPS wildlife camera, used only in the winter months, had been located approximately halfway up the Timpanogos Cave trail, an area closed to public entry.
The camera was placed on the closed trail in December of 2017. It was retrieved on March 27, 2018. Typically, the camera records wildlife in the area while it is closed to the public, and rangers were surprised to find an image that matched Jerika, date-stamped February 18, the reported date of her disappearance.
The photos were immediately turned over to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO), the agency with jurisdiction over the investigation and search for Binks.
Photos triggered an extensive, exhaustive search of park area
Following the discovery of these photographs, an exhaustive search of the park and surrounding area was conducted by the UCSO and the county Search and Rescue team. Multiple days of searches were conducted by air and ground, including helicopters, drones, dog teams, and ground searchers rappelling through steep terrain both above and below the cave trail.
Clues, as small as water bottles or other litter, detected from the air were checked by ground teams. NPS staff actively participated and assisted in the search effort.
Alternate Routes also searched
It is unknown what route Jerika took to get above the locked NPS gate and into the closed part of the hiking trail where the photos were taken. Adjacent scree slopes, animal trails, and other possible but unauthorized routes have been also searched multiple times.
Volunteer searchers must stay on trail within monument boundaries; safety is critical
The steep slopes above and below the cave trail are extremely dangerous. Falls and falling rock have caused injuries and fatalities to visitors, employees, and rescuers during past incidents. All park areas above and below the cave trail are closed to public entry at all times.
The NPS and UCSO conducted exhaustive searches of this area with highly trained and well equipped search and rescue personnel.
The park reminds everyone to stay on the paved trail and report any observations or information related to this case to rangers or the Utah County Sheriff for investigation.
The trail, park visitor center, and cave tours all open to general public access on Saturday, May 19.