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Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Iron County Sheriff's deputy Quinn Averett inspects a Cessna at the Cedar City airport Friday before flying it over a rural part of the county while searching for missing Kearns couple, Tom and Tamitha Garner.

The search for a missing Kearns couple in southern Utah's high country desert may have led to the death of a searcher.

Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said a 37-year-old volunteer for the search and rescue team died early Sunday after spending the day searching a remote area for any sign of Tom and Tamitha Garner.

"It's rugged, rough terrain. He got stuck and exerted himself to get out," Gower said Monday. "He went home and wasn't feeling well and passed away in the night."

Gower did not immediately release the man's name. He said the man had been a volunteer searcher for several years and was snowmobiling in Arrowhead Pass, about 80 miles from Cedar City.

"He was very dedicated," Gower said. "He was a very active member of our unit, and a volunteer. He'll be missed."

Snow in southern Utah has hampered more search efforts. Iron County searchers said the weather is too bad along the Utah-Nevada border to continue looking for the Garners. Lincoln County, Nev., Sheriff Kerry Lee said they received as much as 8 inches of snow in places.

"I was out there and I got stuck," Lee said. "I was buried in the snow and had to dig myself out."

Aircraft searches have found nothing. In Washington County, Sheriff Kirk Smith said they are re-evaluating their efforts.

"We've grid searched everywhere in Washington County where we felt there's a remote possibility they're in, and found nothing," he said.

Members of the Garner family have also been out searching, something law enforcement has concerns about.

"We're understanding of the family's concerns," Smith said. "But when you go out into the wilderness this time of year, you're taking a tremendous chance."

The sheriffs of Lincoln County, Nev., Beaver, Iron, and Washington counties will meet to go over their search efforts in a closed-door meeting in Cedar City on Tuesday. They will determine then whether or not to continue searching for the couple.

"We'll sit down at a conference table to see if we can find anything we may have missed and lay it all out on the table," Lee said.

Tom and Tamitha Garner disappeared Jan. 26 after filling up at a gas station in Panaca, Nev. After that, they drove off on state Route 56 into Utah. The couple had told family members they were going out into the wilderness areas to shoot photographs of wild horses.

Authorities have followed leads and sightings of their gray 1999 Dodge Dakota truck with a scorpion sticker in the back window and Utah license plate 793 URF. So far, nothing has panned out. Searchers have repeatedly said if the couple were in the harsh terrain along the Utah-Nevada border, they would have been spotted in ground and air searches.

Smith said it's still possible they could have missed them.

"If a car rolled over there, and got a little bit of snow on top ... you wouldn't see it until summertime," he said.

Anyone who may have seen the Garners is urged to call police.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com