Search effort launched after CHP hellicopter finds missing man's Jeep

Police said Jay Lafontaine is likely in a remote area just northeast of Bodie, Calif.

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by M
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Dec 8, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Jeb or Janet,

Can you find out if there is a search and rescue fund we can contribute to, and/or how we can help the family *now*. Possibly bring them meals, run errands, etc. Is there a family member or neighbor to contact?

I hope this comes to a quick resolution. This would be tough at any time, but the holidays are quickly approaching and to not know the fate of a loved one is devastating.

Good luck and God bless

Like this comment
Posted by Reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Best wishes to the Lafontaine family in locating Jay.

For those that do plan to trek alone and out of cell phone range, here's one option that would possibly save your own life and keep search and rescue to a minimum.

It called a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), which uses satellite technology (Cospas-Sarsat) to allow the victim of a life threatening event who has no other way of contacting emergency services to send out an emergency distress signal and pinpoint the victim's location.

Several manufacturers have developed them and you can buy one for as low as $100 on sale. They have them at places like Big 5, Dom's, REI, etc.

Big 5 doesn't have it listed on it's website, but you can walk into their store for it. Here are some examples from Dom's and REI:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 8, 2009 at 11:21 pm

I helped Marina Lafontaine, Jay's wife, last evening. Her Toyota Tundra late model PkUp needs a new radiator and had to be towed from Santa Rita and Stoneridge. She needs all the prayers and help she can get from anyone especially during this very stressful, emotional time and bec it's Christmas. THX

Like this comment
Posted by Wife of another solo camper
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2009 at 8:37 am

My heart and prayers go out to the Lafontaine family. It can't be easy any time to be wondering where a lost loved one is but especially during the holidays. Please let us know if there is anything we can do locally to help support this family during their time of crisis.

It breaks my heart to see stories like this. I agree with READER that there are life saving devices out there that the public needs to be more aware of. My husband loves to do solo trips in the wilderness as well. I would have concerns about what he'd do in the event something happened to him in the middle of no where. A few years back I bought him something called a Find Me Spot. It is waterproof so it's ideal for any outdoor excursion. It has the ability to send an OK message to family members while they are out and about. There is also a 911 button that sends out a distress beacon that is monitored by the company in the event of an emergency. When my husband goes on his trips now he has it set up to notify me by email daily that he's ok and where his last location is. I highly recommend this for any outdoors man or woman.

We will be praying for Jay's safe return.

Like this comment
Posted by Emily West
Features Editor
on Dec 9, 2009 at 10:21 am

Emily West is a registered user.

Currently there is no fund set up for the family. I'll post that information as soon as I get the information from police.

Like this comment
Posted by M
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Dec 9, 2009 at 11:15 am

Thanks Emily

Like this comment
Posted by Chelsea Smith
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Jay has come into our office on multiple occasions when I have called to get service our printer, so I don't really know him all that well but he was always professional and seems like a very kind soul. I had a friend who went missing back when I was in college and it is one of the most awful things I have ever been through. My heart goes out to his family and friends and I am wishing good thoughts for Jay's safe return home SOON.

Like this comment
Posted by Troy LaFontaine
a resident of Livermore
on Dec 10, 2009 at 1:01 am

Thank you everyone for the concern and support for my brother Jay .

It is my understanding that the last call from him was on Nov 27th from Boomtown while planning to go south to Bodie . I know he used his gas card in boomtown on that day . I also know that highway 395 between Carson city and Bridgeport had many accidents and had to be closed . He may have tried to take another road to get to Bodie .
I dont feel he made it south of Bodie towards death Valley, he would have bought more gas with that card , or definitely tried to call his daughter. I fear he is trapped , perhaps in his vehicle in the snow unseen from the road he is on. His Daughter , her mother and i drove from boomtown down 395 to death valley asking questions , posting missing person posters , calling hospitals and state agencys looking for any info. An Employee at the Shell station in Bridgeport thought the picture of he jeep looked familer , but he was not sure .

Rick - thank you very much for helping my sister in law , Marina .
It is Good Samaritans such as yourself that just may save my brother.
She has had a new radiator put in her truck the next day .

Jay is very resourceful , He had heated vest that plugs in to the cigarette lighter , wears thermals , heavy gloves and layers of clothes under a parka with a russian hat that can cover his ears which snaps under his chin. He was carrying enough food for a week .
He most likely had a rifle with him to target shoot and a buck knife on his belt.

Jay had no domestic problems , work problems , suicidal etc.
He absolutely wants to be home with his loved ones.

My faith is strong and seeing the support from everyone is helping myself and the rest of Jay's family . Thank you again .

Like this comment
Posted by M
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Dec 10, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Keeping my fingers crossed~ Hopefully Jay was able to seek shelter and he'll be home soon.

Good luck and God bless.

Like this comment
Posted by Lori
a resident of Parkside
on Dec 11, 2009 at 9:17 am

I am so thankful to be part of such a caring community. It lifts my spirit to read the true caring and desire to help another family in need. My prayers will be with Jay and all his loved ones during this very difficult time.

Like this comment
Posted by millie
a resident of Parkside
on Dec 11, 2009 at 11:14 am

I just read that his body was found last night in Bodie State Park. It appeared his jeep was stuck in a ravine. Footprints in the snow look like he was trying to walk out for help.
So very very sad.

Like this comment
Posted by Wife of another solo camper
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I just read the update as well. My prayers go out to Jay's family. I'm so, so sorry to hear of his passing. Please update us to let us know if we can do anything to help out during your time of grieving.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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