Close call at Hubbard Cave |

Close call at Hubbard Cave

A week ago, rescuers walked into Hubbard Cave and retrieved John Hadar and Sherry DeCrow, who were stuck in the pitch-black darkness of the cave for four and a half days.

The story of the search for the missing couple and their rescue has more twists and turns than Hubbard Cave itself.

The Glenwood Springs couple entered the cave on a whim on a Sunday afternoon, Aug. 24. They had told no one where they were headed that day.

Unexpectedly, their flashlights gave out. Wisely, they stayed put, waiting for relatives to notice their absence, report them missing and mount a search. But it was a long wait, complicated by several factors originating at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department.

DeCrow’s daughter reported the two missing Tuesday evening. But Sheriff Lou Vallario failed to share that information with the local media. If newspaper readers and radio listeners had known, they might have spotted Hadar’s truck, which was parked near the cave, many hours earlier.

Once a pilot searching the area on the family’s request spotted the truck Thursday afternoon, Vallario cordoned off the area as a crime scene, delaying the rescue until the next morning.

These were precious hours wasted on the assumption that the couple’s disappearance was a crime. Authorities should always be aware of crime as a possibility, but why delay a search for that reason? We still don’t know what led Vallario to think this could have been a crime.

It’s no surprise that emotions ran high among relatives desperate to start a search. What’s more strange is the alleged attack of a volunteer searcher by a Glenwood Springs police detective.

Vallario, himself a longtime Glenwood Springs police officer, originally planned to investigate the incident himself. Now, he has wisely decided to turn the matter over to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

The whole incident, from Hadar and DeCrow entering the cave unprepared to the botched search and the resulting potshots, yields a mounting heap of mistakes, and questions that remain unanswered.

Luckily, Hadar and DeCrow survived the ordeal.

Now is the prime time to evaluate what went wrong and why, and particularly for the sheriff’s department to review its policies in hopes of avoiding another such debacle in the future.

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