JEMEZ PUEBLO, N.M. (KRQE) - Eight days of searching New Mexico's Jemez Mountains ended Friday with the discovery of wildland firefighter Token Adams dead from an apparent ATV crash.
Adams, 41, was last seen on Aug. 30 as he and two other firefighters split up to investigate a report of smoke rising from the forest. The other two firefighters met up at their rendezvous point, but Adams failed to appear.
Nearly 300 firefighters and other volunteers joined in the search on foot, horseback and ATVs and in the air.
Adams was found by a team from Jemez Pueblo at about 11:45 a.m. Friday on Stable Mesa, officials said at a news conference late Friday afternoon. The site is about 50 miles north of Albuquerque.
The crash occurred on a four-wheel-drive track about a quarter mile off a dirt road.
New Mexico State Police tells News 13 that it appears Adams was attempting to climb a steep hill when his ATV flipped over. When Adams was found that ATV was on top of him.
Adams was wearing a helmet, and an autopsy will determine whether he died from crash injuries, exposure or some other cause.
Officials said Adams was both well-known and well-respected and that the discovery was an emotional one for the fire service.
"This is one of those things where it hits very close to home because what Token was out doing is the same thing we do on almost a daily basis," Incident Commander Joe Reinarz told KRQE News 13.
Adams, a Navy veteran who became a firefighter, moved to New Mexico about a year ago. He had been a U.S. Forest Service firefighter for 10 years and had been a member of the Kings River Hot Shots in California.
Searchers had remained hopeful that he would be found alive because of his survival skills and training.
Adams is survived by his wife, who is pregnant with their second child, and their 4-year-old son.
On Thursday searchers combed mesa tops and steep canyons while his father-in-law told KRQE News 13 about how Adams' little boy is dealing with his dad's disappearance.
“He keeps asking for Daddy," Harold David Abbott said. "We tell him that Daddy's in the woods, Daddy's missing and that we got a whole lot of people trying to find him. I don't know if he understands. He's a 4-year-old."
The family declined to comment on Friday.
"Token is an American hero, and he died in the way he lived: serving and protecting us," Gov. Susana Martinez said in a statement released by her office. "Only time will heal the tremendous pain felt by the beautiful family Token leaves behind, and he will never be forgotten.
"I join the people of New Mexico in mourning his loss and sending our thoughts and prayers to Heidi, Tristan, and their little baby."
Rep. Ben Ray Luján, whose district includes much of the Jemez Mountains, and Sen. Tom Udall, who represented the area as a congressman, both issued statements expressing gratitude for Adams' service and condolences for his family.
"During this sad time, we are reminded of the danger our firefighters and first responders face, and we thank them for their courage and their efforts," Luján said.
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