PAROWAN One man died. A couple and their dog lived.
Their families, unexpectedly united by tragedy and joy, came together Thursday morning to honor that bond, pay tribute to the one who was lost and the pair who survived.
"That's what makes me at peace with it," said David Davenport, referring to the fact that Tom and Tamitha Garner and their dog were found alive, but that in the search process, his brother Leroy died.
The Davenport family and the Garners met up at the Parowan 1st-2nd LDS Ward, where Leroy Davenport's Iron County search and rescue colleagues wore black stripes across their badges at his funeral.
"We're all in shock. My brother was young. It's very unexpected," David Davenport said. "He died an honorable death. His death was in service to others."
Leroy Davenport, 37, was among dozens of search and rescue volunteers from a multitude of agencies from three states participating in the protracted search for the Kearns couple, who disappeared Jan. 26 while looking to photograph wild horses along the Utah/Nevada border. Authorities say Leroy Davenport struggled to dig out his snowmobile that had been stuck, went home tired and never woke up Sunday.
The Garners were found Wednesday, taken to an area hospital and treated for frostbite. They were otherwise OK. Tamitha Garner retrieved their dog Medusa from an area animal shelter and headed back home to Kearns with some family members.
Tom Garner said he simply told his wife he had to go to the funeral.
"He deserves for us to be here."
Still, he admitted it was hard.
"I didn't have any words to try and console them. All I could do is express my sorrow, my condolences ... There's really nothing you can say to a person in that situation."
The service included an eulogy by the search and rescue worker's friend, Steve Decker.
Decker said Davenport loved doing search and rescue work and had aspired to get into law enforcement full time.
"Leroy was always ready and willing to serve. ... He was a great man and will be missed."
Decker said that aside from his friend's affinity for fishing, he was passionate about his wife, Tina, their dog Cocoa and root beer.
Thursday morning, while waiting for the funeral to begin, Gerald Garner, Tom's father, said he had already met with David Davenport.
"I laid awake last night wondering what I would say to the family. There are no words to describe the emotions."
He and his wife gave David Davenport big hugs.
For his part, David said the family was struggling with the death but believed a greater meaning was behind his brother's loss, explaining that their mother had also died recently.
"I believe it was time for him to go. I honestly believe God and my mother called him home."
Gerald Garner said David Davenport also reassured him that his brother, an outdoors enthusiast, had died doing what he loved to do and that the ordeal had brought about happy reunions.
Later, law enforcement authorities said a subsequent aerial search Thursday morning revealed the location of the Garners' abandoned truck about 10 miles north of the Iron/Beaver county line.
Some Beaver County search and rescue workers were going to snowmobile out to the truck, which Tom Garner said when he last saw it was buried up to its cab in snowdrifts.
He said he and his wife have decided to leave the truck where it is, wait for the snow to melt and possibly try to retrieve it in another six to eight weeks, adding that it is not worth the risk of having anyone get injured.
Reflecting on the ordeal, he said, "The hardest part about this is realizing the implication of your own actions. ... It was like I had signed my death warrant, my wife's death warrant."
Much learning and realization came of the experience, however.
"The biggest lesson I learned is you have to have an itinerary," he admitted, "and when the sign says the road is closed, that's what it means."
And in the aloneness of being stranded from the rest of the world for 10 days, he said the ordeal brought him and his wife closer together.Next month, they plan to renew their wedding vows.
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