Helicopter Crew Spots Lost Hiker

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A Payson man who was lost in the wilderness east of town for more than seven hours was spotted by a helicopter crew with night vision late Sunday night.


Forty-one-year-old Michael Kristiansen went for a walk near Doll Baby Ranch Sunday afternoon with his girlfriend, Kim Clark, and her 8-year-old daughter Amber, Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Terry Hudgens said.


Clark and her daughter became winded about a mile into the hike and stopped to rest, Hudgens said. Kristiansen walked on by himself.


Kristiansen lost his bearings and couldn't find his way back, and Clark couldn't locate him, Hudgens said. She went to the Gila County Sheriff's Office in Payson at 7:20 p.m. to report that Kristiansen, who had undergone minor surgery the week before, was lost.


Sheriff's deputies called in 20 members of the Tonto Search and Rescue Team and a Department of Public Safety helicopter team.


The search and rescue team set out on all-terrain vehicles to look for the missing man and the DPS Ranger team took to the sky to search for him with night vision equipment.


"I wandered off with no water or food -- just a typical male," Kristiansen said Tuesday.


Once it got dark, he said, he decided to stay put for the night and find his way back to his truck in the morning.


"But on the helicopter's third trip past, I figured they were looking for me," he said.


The helicopter crew spotted Kristiansen about a mile away from the trail he hiked in on.


"He went looking at a small canyon and got turned around," Hudgens said.


The helicopter crew guided the rescuers on ATVs to Kristiansen's location and by 11 p.m. he was reunited with Clark and Amber.

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