Skip to main content

Trapped and dying in desert, David Welch leaves behind love notes -- and questions

By Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 9:45 AM EST, Mon November 4, 2013
David Welch's van crashed into a ravine in rural Utah, where he died after writing a letter to his family.
David Welch's van crashed into a ravine in rural Utah, where he died after writing a letter to his family.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A man goes missing after he leaves his house on September 2
  • Nearly seven weeks later, he is found hundreds of miles away
  • He's found injured and trapped in a ravine; he used the time to write love letters to his family
  • His death leaves behind many questions

(CNN) -- David Welch hopped into his maroon Pontiac Montana van last month and drove for hours. Without saying where he was going, he kept on driving, police say.

Nearly seven weeks later, a hitchhiker found him in a deep, isolated desert patch in Utah, hundreds of miles from his Kansas home.

Injured and trapped in his car, he'd spent his final days penning love letters to his wife of 32 years and four sons.

Authorities say his car plummeted into the ravine in early September after it veered off the road.

Welch, 54, sat in his mangled car for days, maybe weeks, police say. Nights became days, then weeks, then over a month.

And as his family searched for him, he was trapped in his car, scribbling his last words.

What's in the notes is private, authorities say, and they have been handed over to Welch's family.

His family's ordeal started September 2 when he left his home in Manhattan, Kansas.

A day later, relatives contacted the police to report that he had not returned home.

"At this time officers confirmed that there was no reason to believe Welch was currently in danger of harm or had known medical issues that may cause him to be in danger," the Riley County Police Department said.

It said it notified law enforcement agencies in areas where Welch may have gone.

Four days after he left home, a missing persons report was filed. Long stretches of time passed with no news of his whereabouts.

The retired Pepsi Co. representative was an avid outdoorsman who loved landscaping, scuba diving and snowskiing, according to his obituary posted on a funeral home's website.

Forty-six days after he left home -- on October 18 -- a pedestrian walking along the edge of the desolate road saw an overturned car in a deep ravine.

It was about 850 miles from his home on a deserted section off Interstate 70.

Tire marks led straight off the road down to where his vehicle crashed, authorities said.

It didn't appear that he was braking or attempting a turn, just that he went straight off the road, said Cpl. Todd Johnson, a spokesman for the Utah Highway Patrol.

Authorities believe Welch fell asleep while driving, sending the car crossing into the ravine and rolling onto its passenger side, CNN affiliate KSNT reported.

Welch was trapped alive in the ravine for an unknown number of days.

He was found dead. What police don't know is how long he lived.

And with his passing, a lot of questions remain, like why was he so far away from home?

CNN's Sonya Hamasaki, Drew Iden and Jennifer Feldman contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
While aspects of the fighting in Gaza resemble earlier clashes, this time feels different, writes military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 10:38 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
The death of an American from Ebola fuels fears of the further global spread of the virus.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Nearly two weeks after MH17 was blown out of the sky, Dutch investigators have yet to lay eyes on the wreckage. How useful will it be now?
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
The U.S. and EU are imposing new sanctions on Moscow -- but will they have any effect?
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT