Report From Saturday by Sacha…

February 7th, 2016



Search Report from Saturday February 6th

No plan goes as expected, especially when it’s success is contingent on outside forces that can’t be controlled.

I set out yesterday with two plans.  The first was my primary plan.  I wanted to get my group to search areas that have been inaccessible to us, which are the mouth of the river and the eastern section of the lake.  This plan required two things to happen.  First, we needed permission from Cochiti to fly the drone. Second, we needed permission to access the area closed to the public until April 1st.

We did not receive permission on either front.  I had no way of knowing whether or not we did until we met for the search that morning.  Even though it was looking promising on Friday, I still had a backup plan in case things didn’t go our way.  That backup plan is the plan we ended up using.

Rover Dave had already agreed to spend his Saturday using his drone wherever we needed it.  We decided that we could best use it on the river to examine the water, south of where Randy’s raft was found.  In addition to Dave, we had Kevin, Anthony, Scott, and Cynthia.  But, Cynthia had her trusty companion Molly with her, and didn’t think it would be a good idea to take her to the Montoso Mesa.  Molly’s paws would not be happy with the cactus out there.

We all met at the La Bajada marker, and waited for Ranger Nikolas to arrive.  We waited for an hour before we decided he wasn’t coming.  Cynthia kept busy while we waited by picking up a saddening amount of trash from the meeting place.  It would seem that some people had been using it as a dumping ground.  She filled a big black bag, and it barely made a dent.  She could have filled the bed of her pickup with the monitors, mattress, and other debris.


We decided to split our group up, sending Cynthia and Molly to scout the lake area, and see if it would be worth trying to take a team to the west side of the lake.  Cynthia’s scouting trip proved that it would not help us, because it wouldn’t get us close enough to the area for us to see well.  There are a couple of miles between the shore and the mouth of the river, and there isn’t a vantage point high enough to compensate for the distance.  Cynthia also discovered something else – there WAS ice on the lake still.  I don’t know where Ranger Nikolas got his information, but there is definitely still too much ice to see well.

The rest of us headed to the Montoso Mesa.  First, we went to the raft location, and flew the drone just south of where the raft was found.  We used one full battery to cover the water area.  The video resolution is so clear, you can see blades of grass.  Last week, we identified a turquoise object in the water.  It was small, and we could see it looked plastic, but it didn’t concern us.  When we returned this week, we found that same object, still in the same location.  It was actually on dry land, in the middle of a sandbar.  When we were in the same location a week ago, that item was covered with a few inches of water.  That told us the water level is much lower this week.


We didn’t find anything else to note in that location, so we packed up in the trucks and headed around the canyon to the south, out to a point further down the river.  We had to forge new roads and find old ones, but eventually we arrived at our location.  We hiked to the rim, and we could see miles downstream.  Dave decided to hike much lower, to get the best range from his drone.  Kevin and Scott joined him.  Kevin was Dave’s spotter, and Scott hiked all the way down to river level, to see things much closer.

Dave flew his drone up and down the river banks, hovering over every item he could find.  He made sure to fly as low as he could, and covered the entire river surface in a grid pattern.  He used every battery he had, and risked losing his drone if the wind kicked up, but he stayed down there for over three hours, getting as much footage as he could.

Wheres Davea


Anthony and I used Scott’s binoculars to look further downstream than the drone could go.  We could see so far, it seemed like we could almost see to the lake.  There were several objects in the river, but we couldn’t see any of them with clarity from that distance.  The sharp turn at the end was too far for anything we had to see very clearly.

We didn’t make it back to the trucks until 3:30.  We spent the next hour praying our way through the mud, while we trekked out of there.  I didn’t see my car again until almost 5 pm.

It was difficult for us to make out anything on the video, while we were in the field.  The glare on the remote screen does not allow us to see colors or objects clearly.  But, when I go home, I popped the card into my computer, and I was amazed at what I saw.  You can see bushes, grass, small pieces of litter and debris, and even the ripples in the sand beneath the water.  The video is clearer than any of our eyes could see, without having to stick our heads in the river.

I have given the memory card with the drone footage to Cynthia very early this morning.  She is spending the entire day uploading the files.  It may take her into tomorrow.  She will give me the links to all of the video as soon as she has them.  When she does, I will share the video so that you can all help us go through it and make sure we didn’t miss anything.


Sadly, we have run out of new places to search, until we get permission from any agency, or until April 1st, when the Tetillo Peak Recreation Area reopens.  Cynthia and I checked, and that gate is very locked.  And, that hike is too far to be done on a reasonable day.  We most likely will never receive permission to fly the drone any further south than we have already done.  And, the water in the lake is far too cold to recommend that we spend any significant time in watercraft.  If someone were to accidentally fall in, the hypothermia could be catastrophic that far away from help or shore.

I think we may have reached an impasse in our search efforts.  I know that there are others out there checking on a few small possibilities that are left, but the areas that hold the most promise are the most difficult for us to get in to.

Also, I think the water based searches should only be performed by trained professionals, and hopefully with high-tech equipment to search places that people shouldn’t.  That would probably be an expensive venture, but would also yield the best results.


Many of you still want to help, and one way you can do that is to continue to contribute to the GoFundMe campaign.  Randy’s daughter has control of that account, and she can use that money towards paying professionals to check the water.  The local law enforcement don’t have access to the expensive and experimental equipment that the private sector does, but the private companies almost always require to be paid for their work.

Thank you all of you so much for your support and kind words.  Please send those good thoughts and wishes to Randy’s family.  They need them much more than us.







40 thoughts on “Report From Saturday by Sacha…

  1. You guys are amazing. I’m in awe of the level of dedication to explore every lead. Is there any role at this point for an aerial search of the lake by helicopter or plane?

  2. You folks have gone above and beyond in your efforts to locate Randy. That area is rugged terrain with many hidden areas to check out. I feel that the water holds the answer to what happened to Randy. Thanks for doing your best.

  3. I’ll add my opinion that based on all the reports, the search effort has been both thorough and careful. I was concerned at the outset that the risk of injury or losing someone else, with untrained personnel in the field in such difficult conditions, was high, and I appreciate the efforts that you have all made to stay safe.

    I agree that there are few further options at this stage. The lack of any clues continues to point towards the river as how he got into trouble.

    If he stayed in the river then the water along the banks, all the way to the lake, and the lake itself, are the new primary search areas. Those are hard to search at this time, and a significant undertaking at any time.

    If he got into trouble in the river and then managed to make it to one of the banks after being carried downstream some distance, possibly before succumbing to hypothermia, then he might be anywhere downstream accessible from the banks. That’s an even larger and more difficult search area.

  4. Thank you for the report, Sacha. Everyone has put forth so much of themselves to finding Randy. We’re truly grateful for what you’ve done.

  5. Sasha, Thanks for following up on the river aspect.
    Cynthia, Will review the videos when posted. Hope they will uncover the answer. Dave, Anthony, Scott, and Kevin – your efforts commendable!
    Always good to have a backup plan – sounds like you had two backup plans. You all are a great team!!

  6. I find it sad that no permissions were granted. I would bet in some cases if it was someone close to them an all out effort would be under way.
    Imho all of the searchers in the bush and sitting at computers have set such a high standard that others can not attain it for whatever motivations. i.e. What’s in it for me, It’s not my job, I do not have the authority. The list is extensive.

    Perhaps I am being pessimistic, to emotional concerning this situation.

    Sacha, Cynthia, Scott, Dave and all who have given so much in this search for Randy
    I applaud all of you.
    The efforts each have gone to speak volumes about your character.
    In these days and times it is difficult to find people of such nature.

    God Bless

  7. It’s really too bad that you get better cooperation from the authorities.
    Thanks as always for your efforts!

  8. Excellent report about an amazing bunch of people; thank you. I am sad Randy has not been found, but happy none of the searchers have been hurt.

  9. Thanks for the info and for all of you searching. You gave it your best; that’s all anyone could ask. I guess we have to wait until April and just give to go fund me for now. Thank you all.

  10. Thank you again.
    Does anyone have any connections to a private water search company? If so, how much would that cost?
    That is a good idea. Thank you.

    • Hi Carissa
      Your family has all of our condolences. We feel so very sad. You all losing aa family member and we feel as though we all have also lost a family member. Also, Leo.
      Google private water search company in or by Santa Fe N.M. You should beable to get your answers and cost from them. Again, we are all sorry
      Love from the searchers.

    • @Carissa, “Does anyone have any connections to a private water search company?”

      The job falls under Underwater Recovery and Salvage, and the cost of a recovery is…. “staggering” is the word. Without some evidence that Randy is in the lake, few private recovery teams would agree to do the job. New Mexico State Police have an elite salvage and recovery team, but they would need to know that Randy is actually in the lake.

      Just racking my feeble brain, perhaps NUMA would send a team if a family member wrote a letter to Clive Cussler and asked, but I doubt it. It would be good publicity if they found Randy, but their expenses would be huge. They would not do it without excellent evidence Randy is in the lake.

      It is even likely that if a recovery team was hired, or volunteered, they would not send divers; they would use remote video and lighting; they would not just get three or four divers and search the lake bottom.

    • IET does underwater search and recovery all over the nation. using very high tech equipment beyond that which local authorities typical have access to. They do this as a service based on family requests and cooperation with authorities. This is Crayton Fenn’s group. Crayton is Forrest’s nephew…Skippy’s son.

    • Carissa like desertphil im going to keep searching as much as i can like ive said before if that was me out there i would want people to keep srearching for me so im going to do so as much as i can. While on the search my abilty to get close to the rim has been limited but ill hike in and get little by little covered at a time but ill make sure its all covered along the top part of the east rim has been searched all the way to where he parked before i even think of stopping. God bless your family.

  11. Just on probabilities, I think Randy is in the lake. The problem, of course, is that the east mesa could take a small army to search, even from the air. The expense would be large (which is why I posted a GoFundMe donation, for Leo’s sake).

    I am still planning on searching the much rougher route northeast, along the upper edge of the gorge, on the possibility that Randy got in trouble some place at where the trail from the river tops out on the mesa, to Diablo Canyon. Just guessing, I would think the probability he is along that route is less than 0.1% based on where Leo was found. If Leo were also missing, I would give it closer to 20%

    If I do the search, I will let people know here and on Chase Chat; I can spend 14 days camped on that mesa.

    • Thank you for your response. I was thinking the same about the price being overwhelming. Thanks for your donation to gofundme and of your time.

    • Desertphile im i agree on srearching up stream like you said im going to try to hike in and search some of that area but i can no longer start my searching close to the rim because while looking for randy i lost my transmission in my truck but ill hike in and do my best to search along part of that area as much as i can. If you go out there and would like some company on the search email me at

  12. Sacha, I have never met you, but just based on all I have read here, somebody did a great job rearing you. You would make a momma proud!

  13. The most direct route from the raft to his car has not yet been searched on the ground: upstream from the raft on the east bank. Getting in trouble early there is quite probable as the terrain is exceedingly rugged the first mile or two. Once the the top of Ancho rapid is reached it’s an easy walk to the car. He would have known that above Ancho is an easy walk as he just boated that stretch. He wouldn’t have known how difficult the hard part between Frijoles and the top of Ancho is because you can’t see it from the river. This route would have been one of my two top choices if I were doing his trip.

      • No. The whistle was near Buckman. That area has been searched on the ground. The only area that has not been searched on the ground is the rugged east bank terrain between Frijoles and the top of Ancho Rapid. I’m not sure how much of that there is. The total distance from the raft to Ancho canyon is about 2 1/2 miles. Only about 1-1 1/2 miles is rugged.

  14. To all the searchers, again I say thank-you for all your hard work and your efforts to find Randy. I’m at a loss for words as to what else I can say – if I were standing near you, I’d give you a firm handshake or a gentle hug – as appropriate.

  15. If you superimpose Randy’s map over the SAR map. Randy’s dashed line ends to the East, right at the open road (black dashed line) “NorthWest corner” that turns from a NorthWest heading, almost 90 degrees East/NorthEast.
    Has anyone searched here for signs that Randy was car camping?

  16. My computer and I finally finished the histogram process for the images, taking from the west rim near Frijoles Falls, of the east rim. The number of bytes generated was very great, and my laptop computer took several days to convert each pixel into a Red/Green/Blue hexadecimal number and store it in a relational database.

    I was looking for any and all images that had an uncommon color, in the hope that perhaps Randy was wearing or carrying something that a computer could detect in the images.

    By far the most common color was a “burnt green” (brush and trees) followed by a pale brown (rocks and ground), followed by a dull lime green (river), then baby blue (sky). The least common was a bright red— the arrow added to one image, which was my “control.” The second least common was the odd-looking “fire” where the sum made rabbit brush look like it was burning.

    Over-all, a waste of my computer’s time, but it has not complained.

    • Hello Desertphile. It wasn’t a waste of time. It may not have produced an answer you were looking for, but it did produce an answer. Thank you for doing this. It’s greatly appreciated.

    • Very interesting especially where Forrest was quoted as saying “It took me two trips IN my car to hide the treasure.” Note the word in. I always thought he said he made two trips from his car. Hmm maybe it’s just a typo or not. Something more to think about.

      • More importantly, it was a good story about Randy and what Forrest and the searchers have been doing to try and find him. Thanks for sharing it Dal.

      • Forrest also said , “several” , which could mean…walking and then got a horse (or boat). Rather than walking 2 + miles. How about, he left his car, got on a horse, came back to his car, got the treasures, went about his business…dropped off the horse and came back to his car. Then laughed. Would that be two trips? Just MHO

  17. Sacha, you and Cynthia continue to inspire us all with your dedication to finding answers about Randy. And the guys & gals who continue to show up and keep searching are pretty amazing too. Thanks for all you continue to do. Stay safe out there.

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