1 of 13
Garfield County Sheriff Department
Medical staff and law enforcement unload 28-year-old William Martin LaFever of Colorado Springs, Colorado, from a Utah DPS helicopter Thursday, July 12, 2012, after he was found extremely emaciated but alive, after being stranded in the remote Escalante desert for at least three weeks.

ESCALANTE, Garfield County — An autistic man who had been lost in the Escalante desert for at least three weeks was found alive by authorities Thursday.

William LaFever, of Colorado Springs, had been missing since early June when he called his father from Boulder, Utah to say his camping gear had been stolen and he had run out of money, Becki Bronson, Garfield County Sheriff spokeswoman said.

LaFever's father told him to get a ride to Page, Arizona where he would send him a money transfer. Bronson said LaFever, who was accompanied by his dog, apparently decided to hike down the Escalante River to Lake Powell to find a boat ride to Page.

While hiking down the river, Bronson said, LaFever's dog ran away and LaFever ran out of food and soon began losing strength. She said he reached a point where he had to crawl and had eaten only two frogs that he managed to trap and some roots.

"It is the most miraculous story," Bronson said. "It's unbelievable that they found him and that they found him alive."

On Monday, the Garfield County Sheriff's Office was contacted by William's sister, who said her brother was missing. Deputies initiated a search along the river and were assisted by a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter.

Around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, searchers in the helicopter spotted LaFever sitting in the river waving his arms. Officials said he likely would not have survived another 24 hours.

"He had been sitting in the river to cool down and he was so weak he couldn't stand by himself," Bronson said.

LaFever was flown to an area hospital and is reportedly in stable condition, Bronson said.