Search for Willa at Tonto Basin

Missing Maricopa man located by paramotorists, after days long search by authorities

Near Phoenix, Arizona…After 10 days, authorities still couldn’t locate the whereabouts of Mr. Schrader, an 84 year old, long time resident of Maricopa, AZ. The family contacted a family friend who was popular for flying paramotors in the area and hosted a monthly breakfast get together for fellow Paramotorists. They sprang into action on April 10th, and after a few hours, located the body of Mr. Schrader. He was found a few miles from his car, and had apparently attempted to draw arrows on the ground and left behind empty water bottles and other items. Locals and volunteers had also tried to find Mr. Schrader to no avail. Razors, Quads, and other modes of transportation were used, as well as foot crews, but nobody could to locate him. Apparently, he followed the road for a mile or two, ultimately deciding to cross the desert another 6 miles to his home.

Here are a few local stories about the incident:


The Paramotor pilots created a simple search grid, attempting to stay about 100 yards apart and had two tiers of observers, just in case the ones in front missed something. As the combed the desert floor looking for anything relevant, one of the pilots on the very edge of the grid saw the body and promptly sent precise coordinates to the authorities who then retrieved Mr. Shcrader.

Could they have found Mr. Schrader sooner if Paramotorist had been called in sooner? Perhaps. Paramotors can only operate in fair weather conditions. Higher winds can put pilots in danger, so they are avoided. This makes it difficult to search mid-day, especially in the summer when the hot air creates dangerous thermals that rise from the desert floor resulting in turbulence. Paramotors are relegated to searching in the mornings and evenings on hot days, but in the winter, they can usually search most of the day as long as the wind cooperates. The low temps eliminate the danger of thermals for the most part.

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