A man who searched for a Kearns couple stranded in the harsh backcountry of southern Utah died from a previously undiagnosed medical condition.
"He had a problem with his heart," Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said Friday. "One side of his heart was enlarged, and apparently he didn't know about it."
Leroy Davenport, 37, searched for Tom and Tamitha Garner in a remote area of Iron County last week. He got stuck in snow-packed conditions, exerting himself to get free, searchers said. He went home saying he wasn't feeling well and never woke up.
An autopsy report revealed the heart problem, Gower said. "He (Davenport) was unaware of that problem."
After spending more than a week stranded in the wilderness, the Garners were found Wednesday when an Iron County road crew plowing a snow-packed road stumbled upon them. They were stuck in an area that had been searched, but not thoroughly.
The Iron County sheriff said he wants to meet with other law enforcement agencies before closing his case.
"We'll go over the search," Gower said Friday. "Evaluate everything that went on and learn from the mistakes that were made. See if we can do better next time."
The Garners are now home, their family said, and grateful for the law enforcement efforts.
"They have all diligently worked, searched, followed up leads, and consulted with each other and our families," the family said in a statement. "We would also like to extend our appreciation to the search and rescue workers and volunteers who have spent the last week and a half risking their own lives, sacrificing time with their families, and many of them spending their own money to look."
Tamitha Garner's employer is thanking the searchers by holding a fundraiser next week for the Iron County Search and Rescue and the family of Davenport.
Sandy Regional Medical Center, where Garner works as a nurse, is holding a luncheon on Feb. 13. A donation account has also been set up at Zions Bank in the name of Thomas L. Garner.
"We wanted to do something to help them out with medical bills and lost time, but they said no," said Tammy Kaumans, an office manager at the health-care center. "They didn't want to accept the money. They said give it to the searchers."
Gower said he was touched by the offer.
"That's very nice," he said. "We appreciate that. They're all volunteers. They spend a lot of their own money to do that job."For more information on the fundraiser, call 801-561-9839.
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