Arizona State University professor disappears from campground; public help requested

Debra Schwartz was last seen Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in the Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest south of Flagstaff, Arizona. Anyone with information about Schwartz or her whereabouts is asked to call the Coconino Sheriff's Office at telephone 800-338-7888 | Photos courtesy of Coconino County Sheriff's Office; composite image St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona is asking the public for assistance in helping find 59-year-old Debra Schwartz, an Arizona State University professor who went missing from a campground in the Coconino National Forest Wednesday.

This photo of Debra Schwartz, taken in another national forest on an unspecified date, is provided to assist people in recognizing her. Schwartz was last seen Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in the Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest south of Flagstaff, Arizona. Anyone with information about Schwartz or her whereabouts is asked to call the Coconino Sheriff's Office at telephone 800-338-7888 | Photo (undated) courtesy of Coconino County Sheriff's Office; St. George News
This photo of Debra Schwartz, taken in another national forest on an unspecified date, is provided to assist people in recognizing her. Schwartz was last seen Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in the Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest south of Flagstaff, Arizona. Anyone with information about Schwartz or her whereabouts is asked to call the Coconino Sheriff’s Office at telephone 800-338-7888 | Photo (undated) courtesy of Coconino County Sheriff’s Office; St. George News

Schwartz, a resident of Tempe, Arizona, was last seen Wednesday in the Pine Flat Campground in Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest south of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Investigators have learned that Schwartz intended to camp Tuesday to Thursday. By Friday, when she had not checked out as scheduled, a campground host called 911, identifying her as a missing camper.

When Coconino Sheriff’s deputies responded to the Pine Flat campsite, they found Schwartz’s vehicle and her assembled tent and other camping equipment there. According to the Sheriff’s news release Friday, it appeared that Schwartz left her campground for an unknown destination and failed to return as scheduled.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Command Staff, deputies and Search and Rescue personnel began conducting an intensive ground search Friday, which was described in a news release Saturday:

Personnel conducted hasty searches of the two trails closest to the Pine Flat Campground which are the Cook Stove trail and the Harding Springs Trail. This is a quick and efficient search by small teams that travel quickly to the likely spots and by the route of least resistance. A hasty search is generally the first tactic used in the early hours and days of a search.

“The team also conducted searches along Oak Creek for a distance of approximately one mile each on either side of the Pine Flats campground. They also conducted perimeter searches on both sides of the Pine Flats campground, lit (sic) should be noted that the campground is split by Highway 89 A.

Campsites at Pine Flat are located in a shady stand of ponderosa pines in the upper reaches of the canyon, according to recreation.gov. The natural features are a heavily wooded area and lush riparian zone.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue Helicopter based in Kingman, Arizona, aided in the search Friday and Saturday. Although the helicopter crew conducted many overflights in the area beginning at Schwartz’s campsite and aerial searches of several trails near to and east of the campground, according to news releases, no presence of Schwartz has been found.

Saturday, the search resumed just after daylight with more than 40 ground searchers from both Coconino and Yavapai counties and continued throughout the day, a Saturday evening news release said. Eight of the searchers were equipped with search dogs.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office has engaged numerous resources in the search, according to its news release, including its Search and Rescue Unit.  Yavapai County Search and Rescue Unit, Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue unit and the Arizona State University Police Department are also assisting in the effort.  The ASU police are gathering any information that may prove helpful in locating Schwartz and in determining the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.

Schwartz’s physical description is as follows:

  • Name:         Debra Schwartz
  • Age:             59 years old
  • Race:           Caucasian
  • Height:        5’4″
  • Weight:       160 pounds
  • Hair color:  Brown
  • Eye color:    Green
  • Clothing:     Unknown

If you have information about Schwartz, where she is or circumstances that led to her disappearance please call the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office immediately:

Telephone 800-338-7888 or 928-774-4523 | Silent witness hotline – telephone 928-774-6111

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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