Autistic man survives 3 weeks in Utah desert


Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY

The father of a 28-year-old autistic man who barely survived three weeks in remote southern Utah says his son was an experienced mountaineer but was out of his element in the harsh desert.

John LaFever said Friday that his son William made one crucial mistake: setting off for a 150-mile journey along the wild Escalante River without food or equipment that was apparently stolen before his trip got under way.

“He didn’t realize how arduous his journey would be,” LaFever told The Associated Press. “We didn’t know what he was heading into, either. Thank God he’s alive.”

Authorities say William LaFever, of Colorado Springs, Colo., apparently didn’t realize the distance involved with his plan to hike from Boulder, Utah, to Page, Ariz.

William LaFever is being treated for starvation and dehydration at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, his father said.

“He started out this journey with everything he needed to survive — but it got stolen from him,” John LaFever said. “He thought he could do this on his own without any supplies or equipment, which was a bad decision.”

The man has spent a lot of time backpacking in the Colorado mountains and “never had any problems at all,” John LaFever said. Utah’s twisting, arid canyons turned out to be “totally different.”

He traveled about 50 miles over at least three weeks before he was found Thursday by a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter.

William LaFever’s mother, Anita Jennings of Colorado Springs, said Friday she was still “kind of in shock.”

“I’m just so thankful they found him,” she said.

Jennings said her son believes he is an American Indian and recently gave up his Colorado Springs apartment and sold many of his possessions to go to the Utah desert.

She said his family tried to dissuade him but couldn’t.

“He’s just a little stubborn. There’s nothing you can do. He’s very strong-willed,” she said.

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