Yellowstone National Park Search for Missing Man Now a Recovery Mission

by Kati Michelle

Strong opinions continue to surround the handling and details of the Gabby Petito case. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about it, the case has inspired some thoughtful conversations about the “van life” community and missing persons cases in general.

It is a fact that thousands of search and rescue missions take place spanning the entirety of the National Parks System each year.

Most recently, Yellowstone National Park publicized one case involving two relatives on a backcountry trip that ended in tragedy. While the case initially focused on finding the missing travelers, Yellowstone recently announced a change. Based on new developments, the search for a missing man turned into a recovery mission instead.

About the Yellowstone Case

This case centers around 74-year-old Kim Crumbo and his half-brother, 67-year-old Mark O’Neill. The two originally planned on meeting a family member after concluding their backcountry trip to Shoshone Lake. Unfortunately, the two never made it and the relative reported their absence.

Park officials recovered O’Neill’s body from the east side of the lake earlier in the week. This came after the discovery of a vacant campsite nearby, loaded with gear and a canoe. They did not release any information regarding the cause of death, signaling its investigation may still be underway. Foul play is not a suspected factor currently.

Initially, park officials then tried to locate Kim Crumbo. However, after days of searching for him, NPS transitioned from rescue to recovery. They made the announcement Friday, part of which reads:

“Crews from the National Park Service’s Submerged Research Center will begin using sonar equipment to detect clues in the water. Park search crews continue to search for Crumbo by foot and boat, with assistance from Grand Teton National Park’s interagency helicopter.”

Recovery efforts may span days.

The men are remembered for their service. Both actually worked for the National Park Service at one point. Moreover, Crumbo is actually a former Navy Seal. O’Neill hailed from Chimacum, Washington while Crumbo hailed from Ogden, Utah.

Other Cases in the Area

The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office actually established an entire unit completely dedicated to cracking cold cases. After getting officially established in 2012, the unit systematically reviews unsolved homicide cases that date as far back as 1973.

In order to remain as efficient as possible, the unit focuses its resources on the cases with the highest probability of being solved. With certain biological and technological advances, DNA testing often helps achieve breakthroughs.

They also note the importance of community members and their statements. They note that “relationships change over time.” What they mean by this is that people often choose to come forward after the fact. We’ve seen just how vital these witness statements can be in the Gabby Petito case. You can access the full database here.