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Yuma Search and Rescue Marines find UFC champion's body

By Lance Cpl. Austin Hazard | | September 9, 2008

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The air station's Search and Rescue Marines found the body of a former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion in southeast California at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 8.

Evan Tanner, 37, was discovered in the Palo Verde Mountain range near Clapp Spring after authorities searched the area for several days.

The air station's SAR unit received the call at noon on Sept. 6 and launched at 1 p.m., searching along with De Anza Rescue, an all-volunteer search group for Imperial County Sherriff's Office, until about 7 p.m., said Capt. Ben Keck, SAR pilot for the search.

According to Tanner's blog, the mixed-martial artist was going hiking for spiritual purposes and to test his limits.

Tanner arrived at his campsite on Sept. 3 and set out to Clapp Spring, about five miles away, the next morning, based on the GPS retrieved from his body, said Jeff Green, De Anza Rescue commander.

"Tanner had sent a friend a phone text message on Thursday afternoon stating that he was at Clapp Spring and had run out of water," said Green. "Tanner told his friend he would travel back to his camp at night, when it's the coldest, and to contact authorities if he wasn’t heard from by 8 a.m. Friday."

The campsite was found abandoned, with Tanner's motorcycle and additional provisions and water, at noon on Sept. 6.

"De Anza Rescue found Tanner's tracks at Clapp Spring early Saturday, confirming that he reached the area," said Keck. "We followed the trail until they lost it at the base of a mountain."

SAR Marines picked up the trail later that afternoon, before ending the day's search at nightfall, said Keck.

De Anza Rescue and station SAR continued to search the area on Sept. 7.

Imperial County Sherriff's Office called SAR Marines out again on Sept. 8. Yuma Marines spotted Tanner's body 1.2 miles away from his campsite at about 12:30 p.m., said Keck.

After the body was found, station SAR flew a coroner to the scene once he arrived from El Centro, Calif.

SAR Marines then airlifted the body to the nearby town of Palo Verde, Calif., where the body was released to the coroner.

The coroner determined the time of death to be between late night on Sept. 4 and the morning of Sept. 5, and the cause of death to be heat exposure, said Green.

Station SAR receives approximately 30 calls for search and rescue operations per year, said Keck.


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