Hundreds of citizens search for missing Millcreek man
A search party of more than 1,200 volunteers came up empty handed Sunday after combing the Millcreek area for a missing 80-year-old man.
Fritz Helland hasn't been seen since Wednesday when he walking with his dog.
The Unified Police Department led the search using K-9 units. Search and rescue crews, firefighters and helicopters also have been employed. In all, about 1,850 citizen volunteers have looked for Helland since he was reported missing on Friday.
About 17 square miles have been searched in the Millcreek area, with no sign of the missing man and his miniature Doberman pinscher, Odin.
Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said at the end of Sunday's search efforts that the department will change tactics and no longer conduct organized search parties with volunteers.
"We are asking citizens to search around their own homes, sheds, trailers and yards for any sign of Mr. Helland," Hoyal said in a statement released Sunday.
Hoyal said Helland, who lives near 3500 South and Plaza Way (3320 East), last spoke with a family member Wednesday at about 2:50 p.m., while he was out walking Odin. Neither man nor dog has been seen since.
Authorities are especially concerned about Helland's welfare because he was last seen wearing a light tan jacket, which would not be heavy enough to offer protection from the freezing temperatures the region has experienced the past few nights. He also left his wallet and car at home.
"Ever since then, it's been below freezing every night," Hoyal said. "We're just very concerned about his welfare. We are holding out hope that he's alive and OK. But that [he's dead] is certainly a possibility. We just don't know what has happened to this gentleman."
As Sarah Helland, Helland's granddaughter, prepared to leave with a search crew to canvass Millcreek Canyon on Sunday, she said the family has been out looking since Friday, and they've been wracking their brains for anywhere Helland could be. Her grandfather's sudden disappearance has led to sleepless nights for the family, she said.
"That's not like him," Sarah Helland said.
She said the last time anyone spoke with her grandfather, he and Odin were walking east toward Millcreek Canyon.
"We're hoping he gets home," she said.
Sarah Helland said the family was grateful and overwhelmed by all the support from the community and the police.
"It's been amazing," she said.
Sheryl and Clay Rushton of Sandy, who are neighbors of one of Helland's sons, said they arrived at 8 a.m. Sunday to help search. By 3 p.m., the couple were prepared to start their third assignment.
"It's so unlike him," Sheryl Rushton said of the missing man. "It's so baffling."
Hoyal said police have been checking homeless shelters, hospitals, jails, the airport and the Greyhound bus terminal. They've even checked at the animal shelter in hopes that Helland's dog might have turned up there.
Police have been following up on leads and possible sightings of Odin. They also had search and rescuers painstakingly search the nearby creek.
Helland suffers from some short-term memory problems, but nevertheless should be able to find his way home, authorities said.
He also has a cell phone, but there has been no contact with him since Wednesday.
Helland is a white male about 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, with white hair and blue eyes. Family members say he has a thick Norwegian accent.
Odin is black and brown and has a growth on his right eye, one ear that flops down, barks a lot and is pudgier than other dogs of his breed, family said. The dog typically wears a blue collar with a dog tag that has one of Helland's relative's names on it. The dog is typically not very friendly to strangers, but extremely loyal to Helland.
Anyone with information about Helland's whereabouts is asked to call Unified police at 801-743-7000.