view from madera canyon

The search continues for an 82-year-old part-time Tucson resident who has been lost in the Santa Rita Mountains for more than 24 hours.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said Joe Smallwood called 911 around 4 p.m. Tuesday to say he was lost somewhere in Madera Canyon. His cell phone was tracked through GPS and it was placed within one mile west of Josephine Saddle Trail, he said.

Search and rescue teams looked for Smallwood until 2 a.m., but were unable to find him. They resumed their search at 6 a.m. Wednesday, Estrada said.

According to the National Weather Service, it snowed in the Santa Ritas Tuesday night with temperatures dipping down to 29 degrees and wind gusts reaching 30 to 40 mph.

The sheriff believes Smallwood may have gotten lost because the trails became covered with snow. The snow is also hindering rescue efforts.

"They're having difficulty because of the snow, the snow is covering up the tracks, and we don't know how well prepared he was for the weather, so there's a desperate need to find him right away," he said.

“The more time that goes on, the worse the situation gets,” Estrada said.

Smallwood has residences in Tucson and Ohio, the sheriff said.

Deputies have spoken with Smallwood’s son, who reported his father is an avid hiker.

It’s unknown what, if any, gear Smallwood took with him, Estrada said.

Searchers have called his phone, but it is going straight to voicemail, he said.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has supplied air support and the Sahuarita Police Department has been asked if they will help out with their drones, Estrada said.

However, SPD spokesman Sgt. Michael Falquez said the department had not yet received a request to use the drone.

Kim Smith | 547-9740

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