Alexander Lofgren, a caseworker in the office of Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva and a former U.S. Army combat engineer, was found dead after going missing with his girlfriend on a camping trip in Death Valley.
Authorities began searching for Lofgren and his girlfriend, Emily Henkel, on Tuesday after the two, described as experienced campers who often traverse remote areas, did not return from their trek Sunday as expected.
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday that authorities had been able to locate Lofgren and Henkel the day before using aerial reconnaissance. They were in a “very remote area of Death Valley National Park” perched on a steep ledge.
A rescue attempt failed Thursday, due to the steep, remote terrain. Authorities were able to extract Henkel and Lofgren Friday afternoon; Lofgren, it seems, was found dead, while Henkel has been hospitalized. An investigation will soon begin to determine Lofgren’s cause of death.
Inyo County Sheriff Jeff Hollowell said in a statement, “This has been a tremendously difficult operation in a very unforgiving geographic area of Inyo County, I sincerely hope for healing and recovery for all involved.”
After the pair were reported missing on Tuesday, investigators went through Lofgren’s backcountry itinerary and checked every attraction and tourist site along the way, with no results.
“Both Lofgren and Henkel are described as experienced campers,” the sheriff’s office said on Thursday as the search was underway. “Lofgren is believed to have jugs of water and at least one day’s worth of food as well as camping gear. Lofgren is known for camping in remote areas that are not designated campgrounds.”
Later on Thursday, the couple’s white Subaru was found near a road in the national park, in an area not on their itinerary, with a note inside that read, “Two flat tires, headed to Mormon Point, have three days’ worth of water.”
The two were eventually found two miles away from that destination, the Arizona Republic reports. It’s unclear what exactly happened to the couple.
Lofgren served four years in the U.S. Army and worked in the district office of Grijalva, who represents Arizona’s 3rd district. The Arizona Republic reports that Lofgren came aboard in 2019 as part of the Wounded Warriors Project, after his service in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer, during which he was deployed to Afghanistan.
“To know Alex was to know someone who loved life, loved his family, and loved helping others,” Grijalva said in a statement Friday. “Words cannot begin to describe the void this immeasurable loss leaves in the hearts of his colleagues and his family.”
“Alex lived a life of service and always put the needs of others first,” Grijalva continued. “After serving our country in Afghanistan, he came home to Arizona to serve veterans right here in Southern Arizona as a caseworker in my office. The passion he dedicated to his work each day touched countless lives. No matter the situation, Alex met those he helped with a smiling face, a caring heart, and unrivaled empathy.”