|A landscape of the Mounds area near Wellington where Ryan Thayn's pickup was found and he was reported missing on Nov. 4, 1998|
On June 6 at approximately noon, Emery County sheriff's dispatcher Ken Eley was notified that four people working for a survey crew in the Mounds area had located what they believed to be human remains in a rocky crevice.
During the morning hours of June 8, state medical examiner Todd Gray identified the remains as Ryan Thayn, confirmed the Emery County Sheriff's Office. The missing Wellington man was the subject of a 10-year search effort.
According to the victim's father, Randy Thayn, news of his son's death has brought mixed emotions.
"We know where he is now and that does give us some closure," said Randy Thayn in a telephone interview on Monday. "But at the same time, it also closes out any hope we had of finding him alive. It is a very bittersweet situation."
Randy Thayn reported that his family was informed of the discovery of the remains around noon on June 7. The victim's survivors were given news of the positive identification at approximately noon on June 8.
"I knew right away that they had found my son," said Randy Thayn. "I figured immediately it was him. I haven't heard of anyone else going missing in that area and, when I was told how close the remains were to his truck, I just knew."
Upon receiving information about the discovery, Emery law enforcement personnel went to the site, located the remains and recovered the body.
Emery law enforcement investigators who participated at the scene and conducted an extensive search of the surrounding area included Emery Sheriff Lamar Guymon, Capt. Kyle Ekker, Lt. Bill Downard, Det. Norm Vuksinick, Det. Bob Blackburn and Deputy Jerod Curtis.
In addition to identifying the remains, Dr. Gray listed the cause of Ryan Thayn's death to be a "self-inflicted gunshot wound."
"He nor the sheriff's office are able to determine if the gunshot wound was intentional or accidental," said an Emery sheriff's office press release. "It is believed that the slug that was recovered by the medical examiner matches the gun recovered at the scene by the sheriff's office."
The press release indicated that "the investigation will continue, but will bring to an end the 10-year search for Ryan Thayn."
During a Monday telephone interview, Sheriff Guymon released several facts surrounding the investigation. The facts included:
The weapon was found in the same vicinity as the remains and rounds were still unfired in the weapon.
The crevice in which the body was discovered measured three feet wide at the top end and 16 inches near the bottom.
The area where the body was found consisted of rough terrain that had been searched by rescuers.
"I believe that area was searched by horseback. But it wasn't somewhere you would want to take a horse," said Guymon. "The people who found the remains did so purely by chance."
To the sheriff's knowledge the remains were in tact.
The Emery sheriff reported that these circumstances have led investigators to believe Thayn's death was an accident.
"Thayn hunted in that area quite a bit and everything we have seen points to this being a tragic accident. We have no evidence to lead us to think this was a suicide," said Guymon.
On Nov. 5, 1998, the Carbon and Emery sheriff's departments responded to a missing person's dispatch broadcast indicating that Thayn, a Seeley Oil Company employee, had failed to return home from work.
A massive rescue effort was launched at daybreak of the following day.
Thayn's abandoned pickup truck was parked at the scene. Jumper cables and two motor vehicle batteries were lying on the ground near the truck.
At the time, Carbon County investigators discovered the missing man's coat, several knives and an unfamiliar wallet inside the pickup.
On Nov. 6, 1998 Carbon officials confirmed that the remote site was located across the county line in Emery. However, Emery County authorities requested Carbon's continued participation in the joint search and rescue operation.
"I really feel that there is something this community needs to know," stated Ryan's father. "So many people helped to look for my son. Everyone from state officials to county officials, to hundreds of local volunteers spent thousands of hours helping us search. Their help gave us continued hope and I want everyone who assisted us to know our family will always be eternally grateful."
In the Nov. 19, 1998 edition of the Sun Advocate, Sheriff Guymon explained, "we are approaching the incident as if it were a homicide - the worst possible scenario. But we will look at every possible side and we hope it turns out to be something else."
Along with two county personnel, Rocky Mountain Rescue dogs and officials assisted in the massive search effort. On Nov. 7, 1998 officials discontinued the search after combined multi-agency operations failed to locate Thayn.
The family along with many community volunteers and both sheriff's offices continued to investigate and search in the years following Thayn's disappearance.
"We searched that area several times," said Randy Thayn. "That is another reason I thought this was Ryan as soon as they told me they had found something."