California Highway Patrol yesterday located the Jeep Wrangler belonging to a 48-year-old Pleasanton man who is still missing after failing to return home from a solitary camping trip across the eastern part of the state.
The helicopter located Jay Lafontaine's vehicle at around 11:35 a.m. Thursday in a "very remote area" at an elevation of 10,000 feet just northeast of Bodie, Calif., according to a police statement.
Lafontaine was not found in the immediate area and police said there were no signs of foul play. Some of the man's personal equipment was found in the Jeep.
The Mono County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue team was then deployed to the scene to conduct an extensive search along with other regional agencies, including the California Highway Patrol.
Lafontaine was reported missing by his family on Dec. 4 after he failed to return home from his annual trip Dec. 2, as expected.
According to police, Lafontaine decided to venture east to Bodie State Park in Mono County, which is in about 100 miles south of Lake Tahoe, before heading 250 miles south to Death Valley.
Police Lt. Darrin Davis said Lafontaine left Pleasanton Nov. 27 in a 2005 black Jeep Wrangler with no side doors. It is believed that Lafontaine last spoke to his family later that day. Cell phone records show no other activity since Nov. 27.
During the initial report, authorities believed Lafontaine could have been anywhere within a 250-mile stretch. Although, Davis said a fixed wing aircraft covered about 85 percent of the Death Valley area Dec. 8 with no sign of the Jeep or Lafontaine.
"I don't know whether he's an expert [outdoorsman, but he definitely knows more than the average person," Davis said. "He's an avid camper and likes to go on isolated trips by himself."
Lafontaine was described as being in good health, both physically and mentally. He is 6-feet, 1 inch tall and weighs about 190 pounds, with gray hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a green parka and blue jeans, driving a Jeep with a California's license plate number 5PWX466.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call police at 931-5100.