A well-prepared Michelle Richan survived seven days after getting stuck in remote area of West Box Elder County
Brigham City resident Michelle Richan, for whom searchers had been looking for nearly a week after her disappearance on March 19, was located early Tuesday afternoon, though details were scarce prior to the News Journal’s Tuesday print deadline.
“All I know so far is she has been located and she is alive. I don’t know any details yet,” said Lt. Tony Ferdberder shortly after noon on Tuesday, as news of Richan’s rescue became known.
Within minutes, however, Ferdberder was able to fill in more of the story.
A state road crew worker discovered Richan with her vehicle, which had become stuck in treacherous, muddy conditions on Immigrant Trail Road, in Box Elder County south of Park Valley.
“She’s perfectly fine,” Ferdberder said. “Search and Rescue has been activated and is on their way to get her out.”
Throughout the weeklong search since she was reported missing on March 20, friends and family members had described Richan as someone who would have been well-prepared for some kind of emergency, with necessary survival gear. Ferdberder confirmed such was the case.
“She had plenty of food and water to survive. She had or was in process of building a fire to stay warm.”
Richan had been unaccounted for since March 19, when she left Eureka, Nevada, after visiting her boyfriend, said acquaintance and private investigator Michelle Palmer, of Corner Canyon Investigations. When she didn’t arrive home in Brigham City as planned, both her boyfriend and her daughter notified authorities.
Surveillance video from March 19 placed Richan first in Carlin, then in Wells, Nevada, that afternoon.
Not a trace of her was heard again until Tuesday.
“There’s no indication of anything,” Ferdberder said Tuesday morning before Richan was found. He declined to make speculations at that point.
The speculation of investigator Palmer, however, was spot on.
Tuesday morning, in an interview with the News Journal, Palmer had said, “My thoughts are she went off the road somewhere, maybe off the road to explore and got stuck.”
Immigrant Trail Road, according to Ferdberder’s information, is a less-travelled backroad running between State Route 30 and Kelton. Road crews were preparing for post-winter grading of the road when they discovered Richan.
Palmer said a private-citizen airplane pilot who was assisting in the search saw Richan’s vehicle from his plane Tuesday and was able to alert the road crewman who then established contact.
Ferdberder and Palmer indicated that Richan would be taken to Park Valley, and from there most likely transported to the hospital.
The main thing, though, repeated by Palmer several times in another brief interview after the good news, was “She’s alive and well.”
Earlier in the day, seven days into a fruitless search, moods were beginning to lower, Ferdberder said after Richan had been located. “You do, you start to lose hope for a good ending, if you will. It was definitely getting somber.”
It was a definitely different mood from the “Praise the Lord!” response of Robyn Gail Ramirez, a family friend of Richan’s who was a frequent customer at the Sinclair Short Stop in Corinne where Richan has worked for about 15 years.
When asked how she was feeling after Richan was discovered, Ramirez replied, “Utter and complete joy and happiness! Everyone at the store is laughing and crying! Customers are coming in beaming with relief and surprise! We’re all running around taking too neighbors and so happy. The joy is palpable!”
Ramirez described Richan as funny, witty, ready with a snappy comeback when customers joke with her, and as being “very honest and very truthful. Just a really good person,” Ramirez said. “You know, the community — everybody stops in this store. You can’t even go in there without seeing people welling up.”
Ramirez had set up a Facebook fundraiser that had earned nearly $1,200 in less than 24 hours by Tuesday morning, money that was to help pay for gas and meals for volunteer searchers.
“The way people have donated, it’s just stunned me,” Ramirez said.
Ferdberder said about 150 such volunteers had contributed to the search since it began, “out looking, driving roads between here and Nevada to see if they can see anything, a vehicle crashed off the roadway, anything along those lines,” in a search area he described simply as “huge.”
Another obstacle in the search were the same wet, muddy conditions of backroads that led to Richan’s disappearance in the first place.
Ferdberder said Richan did right to remain with her vehicle — as long as she was equipped with stores and gear to do so.
“Especially in a remote area like that,” he said. “Think of just the last week: we’ve had rain and snow storms. If she’d been out in those conditions, it could very well have turned out different.”
Box Elder News Journal
PO BOX 370
Brigham City, UT 84302
PHONE 435.723.3471 FAX 435.723.5247