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Missing Colorado men found dead

Mark Widegren (left) and Brian Axe (right)

By Richard Shaw

The five day search for two Colorado men that were reported missing this past week ended tragically on Sunday about 3 p.m. when searchers found their Jeep Cherokee in a deep canyon just below the mancamp they had been driving back to eight days ago.

The vehicle was reportedly found by some family members who had been searching the area around Cottonwood Canyon along with dozens of other volunteers. At the time, no one could make it down to the actual wreck, so rescue personnel had to be brought in from Price. It took them about two hours to reach the site. Once the rescuers accessed the wreck they found Mark Widegren and Brian Axe, both 28 years old, dead.

The pair had been working on a pipeline in the Nine Mile Canyon area until they came to Price for some relaxation on Jan. 28. They have been the at the center of efforts by the Carbon County Sheriff's office and dozens of volunteers. At least three planes were in the air looking for the two on Sunday.

The search didn't start until Thursday because no one from their family knew they were missing until Wednesday, when one of their co-workers called a family member and said that they hadn't shown up for work that week.

Friday evening it was reported that officials had been working with Emerytelcom on finding the signal of their cell phones. Unfortunately, no real time signals could be found, but it was revealed that the cell phones continued to operate until about three hours after Axe called his wife at 11:30 that night as he and Widegren sat in the Silver Dollar and watched a game on television. After that the batteries to the phones either failed or were turned off. With that information authorities were able to center their search a little more because the last signals came from east of Price toward the Nine Mile area.

The two men have been working on a pipeline for W.C. Streigel Inc. and left work about 5:30 p.m. that Saturday. Because of the delayed reporting, no one outside of the work area worried that anything out of the ordinary had occurred.

The pair were lifelong friends, said Todd Widegren, a spokesman for the family, and Mark's oldest brother. Todd told the Sun Advocate on Sunday morning that, "Mark came up to work with his good friend Brian for a couple of months," since Mark's landscape business was slow in Grand Junction for the winter.

Word of the discovery of the wreck spread quickly. Sheriff's Deputy Wally Hendricks had been monitoring the search since it began and he spent time with the family that was at the Holiday Inn after the word came in.

"I can't tell you exactly where they found the vehicle at this point, but I know that the rescuers were asking for 2,000 feet of rope to be able to access the wreck site," he said on the phone Sunday evening.

Hendricks said that Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova was on the scene and that at the time of the call they had just recovered the bodies of the two men at 6 p.m. and were headed back to Price with them. He also related that they would be sent to the state medical examiner's office for examination.

According to Hendricks, the Utah Highway Patrol would be handling the accident investigation.

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