SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An author whose book hints at a cache of gold, jewelry and artifacts worth nearly $2 million in New Mexico launched his own search for a Colorado man who went missing while looking for the loot.
Author Forrest Fenn chartered a helicopter Thursday after New Mexico State Police called off the hunt for Randy Bilyeu, 54, outside Santa Fe, news station KOB-TV reported (http://bit.ly/1ZH03g8 ). Fenn called the situation "terrible."
"We're doing everything we can to alleviate the situation," he said.
Fenn and his team searched for hours but found no new clues.
Bilyeu went missing nearly three weeks ago while seeking out the treasure trove that Fenn drops clues about in his 2011 memoir, "The Thrill of the Chase."
Fenn, an art and antiquities dealer, says he hid the chest of valuable items in the mountains outside the city, and scores of opportunistic readers have gone looking for the treasure. The author has tried to dissuade people from looking in the winter.
"The treasure is not hidden in a dangerous place," Fenn said. "I've said many times not to look for the treasure any place where an 80-year-old man couldn't put it."
Searchers last week found Bilyeu's raft and dog, but no sign of the man. They said they are not sure if Bilyeu is still alive.
"Our impression is that there was an event where he collapsed and drowned," said Tom Cremeens, the flight paramedic who found Bilyeu's raft. "We can't find any evidence of him on the ground anywhere. So what we're doing now is just trying to do an over-fly and some ground searching to see if we can confirm some of our theories. But we really don't know if he's still alive or not."
Bilyeu isn't the first treasure hunter whose disappearance spurred a search.
In March 2013, a woman from Texas — drawn by a national television report about the treasure — got lost searching the mountains near Bandelier National Monument. She spent the night in rugged terrain and was walking out the next day when rescuers found her.
That case prompted officials to warn searchers to be properly prepared for the outdoors. And Fenn himself has often advised would-be hunters to wait until spring, when the temperatures rise, and the ice and snow start to melt.
Other treasure hunters have gotten in trouble with land managers for digging on public lands while searching for what Fenn has described as a 40-pound box of treasure.
Information from: KOB-TV, http://www.kob.com