New Mexican search and rescue crews are looking for a man from Colorado after finding his dog and inflatable raft on the banks of the Rio Grande River near Santa Fe.
No one has seen or heard from Randall “Randy” Bilyeu since Jan. 4. Bilyeu lives in Broomfield, Colorado with his dog Leo. The pair are part of a group of treasure hunters who go into the Rocky Mountains looking for a chest of gold a Santa Fe millionaire named Forrest Fenn says he hid.
Bilyeu’s daughter, Carissa Nieves, describes her dad as fun, adventurous, caring and passionate. She says he loves Colorado and the mountains. Nieves tells FOX31 through Facebook, “I found it amazing that he wouldn’t get discouraged after not finding the treasure. He truly believed he would find it. But he really enjoyed the adventure.” She says he went looking for the treasure often.
Bilyeu has not returned from his latest trip. Almost two weeks ago he set out in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a treasure hunt. Police say he parked his car at a popular trailhead near the Rio Grande River and the Diablo Canyon. He was reported missing by a family member on Thursday. On Friday, a search and rescue helicopter spotted Bilyeu’s raft nine miles downstream from where he parked his car.
On a blog dedicated to the hidden treasure, Fenn posted photos from the search. He pointed out that Bilyeu’s raft was found upside down a few hundred feet from the water with the paddles neatly placed next to it.
Rescue crews also found Bilyeu’s dog Leo alive. Fenn said Leo looked like he hadn’t eaten in days.
New Mexico State Police are conducting the search and rescue operations. Crews have been searching the area where Bilyeu’s belongings were found since Friday.
In an email to FOX31, Fenn described Bilyeu as a happy guy with a big smile and a ready wit. He says the treasure hunting community is hoping that he will be found safe.
The treasure hunting blog also reposted a thread from Bilyeu last fall that highlights his passion for the hobby and his love for the outdoors. It says, “I really hope that someone soon finds Forrest’s chest of gold…but everyone knows that the real treasure is the journey of life itself and enjoying nature.”
Bilyeu’s family lives in Florida. They are trying to at least get Leo returned to them. The treasure hunting community has set up a GoFundMe page to help with unexpected expenses.