Colorado man missing after New Mexico treasure hunting trip


Randall “Randy” Bilyeu

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DENVER — New Mexico search and rescue crews are looking for a Colorado man after finding his dog and inflatable raft on the banks of the Rio Grande River near Santa Fe.

No one has seen or heard from Randall “Randy” Bilyeu since Jan. 4. Bilyeu lives in Broomfield with his dog Leo.

The pair are part of a group of treasure hunters who went into the mountains looking for a chest of gold that Santa Fe millionaire Forrest Fenn says he hid.

Bilyeu’s daughter, Carissa Nieves, describes her dad as fun, adventurous, caring and passionate. She said he loves Colorado and the mountains.

Nieves said through Facebook, “I found it amazing that he wouldn’t get discouraged after not finding the treasure. He truly believed he would find it. But he really enjoyed the adventure.” She said he went looking for the treasure often.

Bilyeu has not returned from his latest trip. Almost two weeks ago he set out in Santa Fe for the treasure hunt. Police said he parked his car at a popular trailhead near the Rio Grande River and the Diablo Canyon.

He was reported missing by a family member on Thursday. On Friday, a search and rescue helicopter spotted Bilyeu’s raft nine miles downstream from where he parked his car.

On a blog dedicated to the hidden treasure, Fenn posted photos from the search. He pointed out that Bilyeu’s raft was found upside down a few hundred feet from the water with the paddles neatly placed next to it.

Rescue crews also found Bilyeu’s dog alive. Fenn said the dog looked like it hadn’t eaten in days.

New Mexico State Police are conducting the search and rescue operations. Crews have been searching the area where Bilyeu’s belongings were found since Friday.

In an email, Fenn described Bilyeu as a happy guy with a big smile and a ready wit. He said the treasure hunting community is hoping that he will be found safe.

The treasure hunting blog also reposted a thread from Bilyeu last fall that highlights his passion for the hobby and his love for the outdoors.

It says, “I really hope that someone soon finds Forrest’s chest of gold … but everyone knows that the real treasure is the journey of life itself and enjoying nature.”

Bilyeu’s family lives in Florida. They are trying to at least get Leo returned to them. The treasure hunting community has set up a GoFundMe  page to help with unexpected expenses.

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