After leaving his home more than two months ago for a quick ride around the neighborhood, authorities finally got a break in the case of a missing 51-year-old Forest Lakes architect Saturday.
Mark Irby’s red Bombardier ATV was found by hunters near Chevelon Canyon Lake March 14, but there was no sign of Irby.
Two men from Snowflake on a hunting and fishing trip found the abandoned ATV off of Forest Service Road 170, about a mile southeast of Chevelon Canyon Lake, said Gerry Blair, of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department.
The lake is around 12 miles north of Irby’s home in Forest Lake.
Irby was last seen by his family around 10 a.m., Jan. 2. Irby told family members he was going on a short ride through the area, on residential streets referred to as the loop, within the Forest Lakes subdivision.
Irby’s family had planned to leave Forest Lakes and return to their primary home in Chandler when he returned from riding.
But he never returned and, after searching 1,800 hours by foot and 20 hours by air, investigators found no tracks or clues to Irby’s whereabouts. Deputies assigned to the area continued to search for Irby, but ongoing efforts have been limited.
The Chevelon Canyon Lake area was not included in the initial search grid, based on Irby’s past riding behavior, his plans to take a short ride and the existing winter weather conditions.
On Sunday, deputies, officers and volunteers from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue Unit, along with the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Division began searching the area where the ATV was found.
On Monday, 10 deputies and volunteers continued the search. Intensive search efforts will continue throughout the week, Blair said.
Irby was last seen wearing a denim shirt, blue jeans and Croc-style plastic shoes.
He “was certainly not prepared to hike in the existing deep snowpack, nor was he prepared for an extended or overnight stay in the forested environment,” Blair said.