Combing the canyon

Piñon’s elite search team is on the job

Search crew stands at cliff overlooking canyon, wearing bright yellow shirts.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
The Dzil Yi Jiin Community Emergency Response Team prepares to begin its search for Daniel Andy Tsosie on June 15 south of the Spider Rock monument in Canyon de Chelly. Tsosie went missing on July 1, 2014, and police believe evidence of his last known whereabouts may be near the monument.


A four-year search for Daniel Andy Tsosie that involved U.S. Customs, the Sierra Vista, Arizona, Sheriff’s Office, and the Nogales, Arizona, Police Department, came home.

The Navajo Police, Department of Criminal Investigations, the Apache County Sheriff’s Office, the Dzil Yi Jiin Community Emergency Response Team and volunteers gathered at the Spider Rock Campground along Navajo Route 7 east of Chinle on Friday morning. Their mission: find any human remains, anything that might have been made or left by human hands, and document and record where it was found. Police didn’t have much to go off of, except that Tsosie, 21 at the time of his disappearance, was dropped off at the Spider Rock turnoff saying he was going to visit his grandparents.

The last known clothing he was wearing was a brown shirt, gray pants and rectangular prescription glasses. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System website states he was seen by his parents on the morning of Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Other reports say he was last seen hitchhiking on the east side of Chinle.

That information led police to focus their search in the Spider Rock area. Police instructed the volunteers they’d be searching to the south and west of the Spider Rock Overlook, along the Canyon de Chelly rim and through forests of piñon trees that seemed impenetrable.

The Dzil YI Jiin CERT, from Piñon, Arizona, was given the task to search the more rugged and rocky areas to the south of the overlook. Since the search could involve rappelling off cliffs as high as 800 feet, it was perfect for CERT. Their team leader, Raynard Kieyoani, a Navy veteran, told the team where they’d be searching. A local canyon tour guide would escort them in. They left the command post and arrived at their search area 10 minutes later.

The team, comprised of Kieyoani and six men and women, parked their vehicles and grabbed their packs filled with water and energy bars. Their bright yellow, long-sleeved shirts could easily be seen against the piñon-juniper forest and red sandstone background. Kieyaoni and teammate Richard Sage, who were the only two certified to rappel, grabbed their climbing gear.


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Categories: Police Blotter

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