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Sad outcome for missing RVers: Indiana couple located

An Indiana RVing couple, missing since March 27, have finally been located in the Nevada desert. Ronnie and Beverly Barker, ages 73 and 70, respectively, left Albany, Oregon, in their Forest River Sunseeker Class A motorhome. The missing RVers were headed to Tucson, Arizona, to visit friends. They never turned up, and relatives got deeply concerned when they “dropped out” of communications. The Barkers’ story reads like a novel, but sadly, there’s no happy ending here.

Last cellphone ping

Social media provided a platform for the frightened family members to reach out for help. On Saturday, April 2, a week after the couple left Albany, the first post asking for help went out. After leaving Oregon they were going to stay in the Fallon, NV, area. However, their cell signals/computer tablet signals last “pinged” in an area near Dyer, Nevada, which is nearly 170 miles farther south than where they planned to stay. Their next planned stop was overnighting at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, then they would continue to meet their friends in Tucson on Tuesday evening.

A relative from Las Vegas drove up and down the projected highways that Ronnie and Beverly would have driven—to no avail. “At this point we’re hoping and praying that they made a wrong turn, ended up possibly getting stuck in the mud and are without cell service to call for help. Hopefully it’s nothing worse than that and my Uncle Ronnie & Aunt Bev can find their way home to Indy.”

Use the Space Station?

The next day, Sunday, April 3, an early morning social media post showed a lead on the missing RVers. “I just spoke to Nye County Sheriff’s Dept. They just informed me that a traffic camera in Hawthorne took a photo of the RV and car in tow at 5:35 pm as it headed South on 95.” Social media followers had thrown up a variety of suggestions, one of which the Nye, Nevada, county sheriff said it would follow up on:. Contact NASA and ask if the crew on the International Space Station might shoot some new images of the potential search area. Wrote Ronnie’s niece, “What an amazing thing if they can do that for us! My Uncle Ronnie would be overwhelmed if he knew that the space station was helping find him, as he was an amateur astronomer.”

Independent searchers requested

Click to enlarge. Base map, google.com

Later that day, the family posted information regarding cell pings. “Originally, we had cell pings from the Dyer and Silver Peak areas, we now believe those to not be accurate. Authorities are very confident that the last cell ping was from the cell tower at Coaldale. Under perfect conditions the Coaldale tower could get a hit from nearly 50 miles away. It’s not likely to be that far but it is possible so we are now widening the search area to be within 50 miles of Coaldale.” From the outcome, it appears that the Barkers’ cell pings may have actually been caught by all three towers.

The Barker relatives went on to ask that anyone who wished to do independent searching for the missing RVers were welcome to. They included a map showing a radius of 50 miles around Coaldale, adding, “There is so much interest and willingness to help it’s simply best to look at the map, pick an area and search it. Even if multiple people have traveled the same road, you never know when the sun may reflect off the RV in the distance and only you were there at the right time to see the flicker. Focus your attention on where an RV could possibly go.”

Search area narrows again

By Monday, April 4, the family was fearful that the groundswell of volunteers might be reduced by a need to return to secular jobs. Ronnie and Bev’s relatives posted, “We are hopeful that the Nye County Sheriff will request assets from the Nevada Civil Air Patrol, as well as bring in the Southern Nye County Search and Rescue team.”

Referencing the search area, “We are working to make sure Ron and Bev never made it past Tonopah, NV, which will shrink our search area if we can be 100% certain they haven’t been that far south on 95. Please keep sharing this! We are hoping more media outlets out in Reno and Vegas pick this story up which will help get more assets of local officials see that we are watching how they handle this. Please keep the prayers coming. We are at Day 8 and they need to be found TODAY!!!”

Later in the day another break came. A security cam image of the missing RVers’ motorhome turned up. It was shot at roughly 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 27, near a rest stop in Luning, Nevada. This placed the couple 35 miles north of Coaldale—the site of a cell tower authorities thought was the last “ping” location for them later that night.

“Machinations of bureaucracy”

But the excitement of having narrowed down the search field was tempered by the machinations of bureaucracy. That evening, the family social media post read, “Here’s a question you might be wondering…and we are too. Why hasn’t a Silver Alert been issued for Ronnie and Bev? Great question….[why] hasn’t it happened? I asked the Esmeralda County Sheriff that question today and received no reason. This should have been done by Thursday/Friday at the latest! Why is this so difficult? They both have health issues, we know they were in Nevada… Why won’t authorities ask the public for help?”

A few hours later, the family got their answer: Ronnie and Bev were not Nevadans. Under the Nevada Silver Alert system, before setting up an alert, the missing person must meet six criteria. One of the questions on the criteria form is this: “Is the older citizen’s domicile in Nevada?” Since the Barkers are from Indiana, they didn’t meet the official criteria. The family pleaded with anyone who had connections with the Nevada governor’s office to step in. We never learned what happened, but later that night, interstate reader boards began flashing a Silver Alert message for the Barkers.

Motorhome found

Tuesday, April 5, opened with a message from the family that proved both optimistic—and prophetic. “Today we will find them!!!” By noon, more information came in, narrowing the search field. Law enforcement reported they’d checked with businesses in Tonopah along the highway, looking for security camera footage that might show the missing RVers’ motorhome and toad car. Not a trace was found. “I think this may shift the search efforts to the West of the 95/6 junction at Coaldale. We know the Silver Peak area has been hammered by searchers, if you are going out I would not recommend that area. Find somewhere new…….like the area near 6 and 360 perhaps? I dunno…. I’m just thinking that maybe for some reason they went west on 6. “

Silver Peak Road, area near where motorhome found. Donna Hawkins on facebook.com

Late in the day, definitive news came from the family. Close to 8 p.m., Eastern time, a post related this information. “Some of you guys may have heard rumors that the RV has been located and that is true. We found out about 90 minutes ago. The location is West of Silver Peak. All I can tell you all is that the RV was found stuck in the mud and is way up the mountain there. Unfortunately Ron and Bev were not in the RV, and the Kia was gone. That’s honestly all the info I have at this point. I will update when I get a chance. Let’s stay positive and pray that Ron and Bev are ok.”

Sad news arrives

For those following Ronnie and Bev’s story on social media, there must have been a collective breath-holding. A little over two hours later, the fatal news arrived. “Guys… this is going to be brief. I’m very sorry to say that rescue teams have located my Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Beverly. My Uncle Ronnie I am sad to say has passed away. Beverly is “doing ok” and is being airlifted to Reno as I type this. I have no details on where they were found or how he passed away.” The family added, “Bless you for praying, looking, being there for us. We need you all now more than ever. We love and will forever miss you Ronnie Barker.”

At the time, few details were available. Just where they were found isn’t clear. It wasn’t with the motorhome. Ironically, late Tuesday night, a cell phone alerted to an incoming text message. The phone belongs to the Barkers’ daughter. The message, evidently sent from one of the Barkers’ cell phones, sat in the phone’s queue, waiting for a connection to a cell tower. It read, simply, “37.75325, -117.82469 Help”.

Read the most recent information here.

##RVT1047b

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Colleen S. Phipps
3 months ago

Sad for the family. Since the RVers were nowhere near a highway, I don’t see what benefit a flashing Silver Alert would have been. There were many people searching. The woman reported that they saw other RVs shortly after they went off on the gravel road. Why did they not stop and ask questions about the road. Why would they continue to head off down such a road? When they finally got stuck, they would have had food, water, and heat had they stayed with the RV. They took off in the car with none of those items. Very sad but they made the wrong choice every time they had to make a decision, but it’s easier to blame the state for the Silver Alert issue. Don’t blindly follow GPS directions when they are obviously wrong.

Vanessa
4 months ago

My sisters track me on an app called Life360. I went into a hole with no cell service a few years ago and they were panicking until I popped back up. Now they know that area is one I frequent and make a point to “go topside” every couple of days to let them know I’m ok. If nothing else they know where I was last located as a starting point but I am considering getting one of the satellite trackers like the Garmin Inreach for extra insurance.

Laura
4 months ago

Garmin InReach! Let this be a sad lesson and reminder to get it. Bonus with the InReach is that the months you aren’t traveling you can suspend your account and just pay a very small fee (under $5). When on the road again, re-activate. It also provides 2-way communication, invaluable because you KNOW someone is on their way! I also send a quick text to family from it every night with my location, no cell service required. I throw it in my pocket or pack when even on the shortest walk or hike. I lay in the bush when I was in my 20’s hoping for someone to come by, I fell X-country skiing and did in my ankle. These things weren’t invented yet! lol You will never be lost or have an emergency where you can’t get help and your loved ones have the comfort of knowing you are ok. Horrible to think that if they had it they would still be here.

Jeff Craig
4 months ago

We just drove north on SR93 a few weeks ago, coming from Vegas to Twin Falls, ID. We had our ‘RVlife Pro’ plot an ‘RV safe’ route that took us nearly two hours out of the way from what Google Maps had plotted. Both routes were safe, as we had driven the SR318 leg between Crystal Springs and Elko before, but it had no cell signal in areas over 45 miles long and that was on two carriers. 5G radios will carry data faster, but when cell towers are far away, or only carry voice calls (riding two T3 connections!!), then text or app messages won’t go out.

Technology has options for people in this situation, and an EPIRB (findmespot.com has been reviewed here) would have summoned help, likely saving this family the heartbreak they are living through.

As we say in the Navy, ‘Safety regulations are written in someone elses’ blood’. Hopefully travelers will learn from this story, and invest in some ‘peace of mind’.

Last edited 4 months ago by Jeff Craig
Tom
4 months ago

I would suggest that the governor of Nevada hear how upset Senior RVers are with “ you’re not a resident “

isatnleft
4 months ago

So Nevada has no empathy! Could be associated with thinking the same as Casino gambling, “we’ll take your money no matter what.” I really like the Nevada landscape and even all the gambling opportunities. But to tell me that I do not matter if I’m in an emergency situation, that you won’t make any effort to rescue me unless I have domicile in your state, that is pure bull****!

Ali Fiddler
4 months ago

We frequently drive from Reno to Vegas on lonely Hwy 95 to see our kids. In Google maps, make sure that “Avoid Highways” is not turned on, as that will send you way off-road.

Deb Blagg
4 months ago

Very sad, and as senior RVers, a good reminder about the importance of letting loved ones know your travel plans. We use an RV GPS, but we also use Google timeline and share it with our son and daughter. They can see our travel history, so even if we were to get stuck or lost, they would be able to find the proximity of our travels. We also share our iPhone travel calendar with our kids, so they know each stopping point and how long we will be staying. We’ve added an emergency beacon (electronic flare) and have our eyes on a $400 emergency beacon transmitter. We relate to this dear couple and don’t want to end our journey as the Barkers, or to put our loved ones through the worry of their family. I hope Beverly recovers and my heart goes out to her.

Roger V
4 months ago

So very sad and so needless. For such tech savvy Seniors, it’s surprising they didn’t have an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). It would have had Emergency Responders at their site within hours. If you want to be sure you can get help if you still get lost and/or injured with no cell signal, get an EPIRB. It’s satellite based. All you need is a view to the sky. Summons EMS anywhere in N. America. Most also let you send/receive text updates with your contacts. Many options are available including Garmin, Spot, Zoleo, ACR and others.
Yes, there is usually a subscription fee, but some offer the option to suspend service while remaining activated. How much is your life worth?

Last edited 3 months ago by Roger V
Engineer
4 months ago
Reply to  Roger V

Having boated for over 30 years we have an EPIRB in our coach just for this reason!!! If you boondock it’s even more sensible to have one on board.

John_Brown
4 months ago

If lost, if ROL is still in effect, people are expecting you or loved ones would report you missing, staying with the stuck RV might be a better choice then driving out in a desert like area with little water and fuel. Especially if you are over 60 and need the use of a wheelchair.

On the 3rd day, starting a big fire with foam from the RV and a spare tire would have hopefuly gotten someone’s attention.

Ed D.
4 months ago

One of the questions on the criteria form is this: “Is the older citizen’s domicile in Nevada?” Since the Barkers are from Indiana, they didn’t meet the official criteria.”

It should not matter where they are from. A life is a life! Shame on Nevada for making such a heartless rule for asking the Public for help! It is simply unconscionable.

Susan Morgan
4 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

I thought the very same thing!

Seann Fix with an EV too
4 months ago

Nevada won’t search for senior if they are not a resident??? I may have stopped in Nevada for the last time…

Susan Morgan
4 months ago

My sentiments exactly!

Tommy Molnar
4 months ago

This area is our “stompin’ ground”. I can see how someone could get lost and mired down in mud (or even dust) depending on the time of year). A very sad ending to the story.

Linda
4 months ago

So sorry for her loss. Such a sad situation.

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