Breckenridge man still missing; $10,000 reward offered for Jack McAtee’s safe return
The last known call Jack McAtee made before his Sept. 19 disappearance was to the Safeway pharmacy in Frisco.
The 27-year-old Breckenridge resident asked about picking up a prescription sleep aid. The call was placed at around 6:35 p.m. on Sept. 18.
Fewer than five minutes later McAtee’s car would veer off of Dillon Dam Road — tumbling end over end before going airborne — and plunge into Dillon Reservoir. McAtee kicked out the back window and swam to safety with only a small laceration above his left eye.
He told a state trooper he had fallen asleep at the wheel. The state trooper had a different theory, though. According to his report, the trooper believed that the crash might have been intentional.
McAtee, who is bipolar, did not tell the trooper he had recently stopped taking his medication.
Noting McAtee’s erratic behavior, which was carefree and agitated by turns, the trooper put him into protective custody and transported him first to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco and later to the jail for physical and mental evaluations.
At around 2:20 a.m. on Sept. 19, McAtee would move from the jail to a bed at Summit Safe Haven, a mental health facility located inside the medical center.
The next morning, at around 11 a.m., he walked out of St. Anthony’s with $67 in his pocket. He hasn’t been seen or heard from since. His father believes he may be camping in the Gore Range, within 10 miles of Frisco.
McAtee was last seen wearing a red or maroon hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and brown moccasins. He is about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighs 170 pounds and has green eyes and dark hair. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is urged to call (970) 453-2232 or (970) 668-8600.
THE SEARCH CONTINUES
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has taken charge of search efforts. However, leads so far have been scarce, said Undersheriff Derek Woodman.
Investigators are hoping to obtain area surveillance footage that could give them a clue as to where McAtee might have been heading when he left the medical center. And early last week, three K-9 teams conducted a six-hour search through the wooded area surrounding the hospital.
Such a search is unlikely to be successful, Woodman said, explaining that locating someone in the backcountry can be difficult, particularly if the person doesn’t want to be found.
In the wilderness, “it’s difficult to rescue and find a person who is in a known location,” he said.
Investigators are interviewing and reinterviewing family and friends, Woodman said.
McAtee’s father, Steve McAtee, is specifically looking to hunters in Summit County’s vast backcountry for help. He said a team of volunteers is getting the word out to the hunting community by taking to social media networks, posting missing person fliers at every trailhead in the county and talking to hikers along the trails around Frisco.
McAtee’s father is also offering $10,000 to anyone who can secure his son’s safe return. The family has set up a website http://www.findjackmcatee.com, which is updated regularly.
The family initially believed McAtee might have been hitchhiking west toward Moab, Utah. They quickly assembled a team of volunteers, getting the word out to truck stops stretching from Salt Lake City to St. Louis, where the McAtee family is from.
However, because no bank transactions have been made since Sept. 18, they believe McAtee is likely still in Summit County. McAtee has gone missing at least three times before, but never for this long, his family said.
Sept. 18 was a busy day for McAtee. As on the day he went missing, he woke up at Summit Safe Haven in Frisco. McAtee had gone off his medication roughly 10 days earlier. He was having trouble sleeping and he went to the facility for a sleep aid, McAtee’s father said.
After leaving the facility, McAtee transferred $2,000 from an investment account to his checking account. He also called his boss at the Breckenridge Hat Co. and told him he would be leaving his job and moving out of the area, where he had lived for about 5 years.
According to his father, McAtee had become upset over a relationship. He had romantic feelings for a woman who did not feel the same way about him.
Steve McAtee believes this may have spurred his son to decide to move away from Breckenridge.
McAtee compared his son to Christopher McCandless, the tragic central figure of “Into the Wild,” a 1996 nonfiction book by Jon Krakauer and a 2007 movie adaptation. Both were intellectually and physically adventurous. McAtee said his son has the skills and the philosophical bent to survive in the wilderness for extended periods of time.
He said he believes he’s still out there and will return any day.
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