|Shortly after the Tribune went to press last week, the Saguache County Coroner was able to identify the body initially reported to the Custer County Sheriff’s Office June 25, and retrieved the following day. Custer County Search and Rescue was one of several agencies engaged in the operation in the sprawling 140,000 acre Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
The remains were identified as those of Bryan Skilinski of Phoenix, N.Y. Skilinski was last seen on May 8, departing from the Sand Pit Picnic Area in the National Park. When rangers noted his vehicle parked in the Sand Pit lot, a multi-agency search effort was initiated. The search response had been delayed because Skilinski had neither obtained a permit nor left an itinerary of his trip with family. In other words, his destination or whereabouts were unknown.
When hikers discovered the deceased near Milwaukee Peak in the National Preserve, and reported their discovery on June 25, efforts were immediately initiated to recover the victim’s body. Due to deep, heavy snow at lower elevations in May, the area where Skilinski was located had not been searched earlier.
His remains were taken to the Saguache Coroner’s Office on June 26, as he had been found just over the Custer and Saguache County line, on the latter’s side. Coroner Tom Perrin has not released a cause of death in the case at this time, and the incident remains under investigation. No foul play is suspected.
The park’s staff continues to be in close contact with the victim’s family, and has expressed gratitude to the agencies that assisted with the search in May as well as the recovery in June. Those agencies, in addition to the Custer County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue, included the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, Saguache County Coroner, Saguache County Search and Rescue, Western Mountain Rescue, US Forest Service Monument Heli tack, Flight for Life, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control’s Multi Mission Aircraft as well as dog teams from Larimer, Park and El Paso Counties.
The tragic event has been an occasion for the National Park Service to remind and encourage visitors to alert loved ones or park staff to their hiking plans when visiting remote locations.