UPDATED JULY 19, 2010, 11 A.M.
Rick Steele Is Remembered in an Outdoor Candlelight
Friends, Family and Fans Pay Homage to a Man They Loved
MONTROSE — Friends, family and fans of Steele gathered near where he died Sunday night to pay homage to the popular Montrose DJ and radio personality for KUBC Radio. About 90 people gathered at dusk near South Canal on Miguel Road, where Steele was last seen walking his dogs on July 2. A body tentatively identified as Steele’s was found in the canal near Uncompahgre Road, about 12 miles downstream. The Montrose Sheriff’s Department and Posse, along with the Colorado National Guard, searched for Steele, as did search parties organized by friends. Sunday night’s gathering, originally planned as a candlelight vigil, became a memorial service instead. Harry Drew came with his two dogs, Guy and Sage, because he knew Steele was a dog lover. He was also a mentor to Drew, who works at Cobble Creek golf course but wants to get into radio. Drew said he and Steele had planned to play golf together. “I want to go into broadcasting, and he’s the reason why,” Drew said. “He had that voice. He was a great guy and a great teacher, and I was hoping to be in there with him.” Singer Yvonne Meek also remembered Steele, in both words and song. “He has always been a fantastic supporter and always encouraged me when I wanted to give up so many times,” she said. “He was a great guy that I’ll miss for sure.” Meek then sang a song she wrote for Steel, “Lay My Burden Down,” followed by “I’ll Fly Away.”
POSTED on July 17:
The Montrose County Sheriff’s Department discovered a body of a man in the South Canal at Uncompahgre Road Saturday morning at approximately 9:30 a.m. The body has not been identified and autopsy will be performed. A Montrose County Sheriff’s Deputy was patrolling the canal and discovered the body.
Authorities and private groups have been searching the canal and surrounding land for more than two weeks for Rick Steele, 48, a popular morning DJ on KUBC, who was last seen near the canal on July 2.
“The body has not been identified at this time, but the circumstances surrounding the search for missing DJ Rick Steele are consistent with this case, pending autopsy results,” said Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap.
Searches conducted for Steele by the Sheriff’s Department were by land and water. Air searches were done by the Colorado National Guard and a local helicopter pilot. Search dogs were also brought in.
When the search by law enforcement was scaled back last week, friends of Steele also conducted at least two more searches of land around the canal, but nothing was found.
Steele’s truck and two dogs were found in good condition near the canal the day after he was last seen, but there were no other clues in his disappearance.
The Sheriff’s Posse had set up devices in the swift moving canal to catch anything that would come downstream, Scuderi said. There is no indication of foul play.
POSTED on July 13:
A new search is being organized this afternoon to look for Rick Steele, a Montrose DJ who disappeared near South Canal last week while walking his dogs.
Friends of Steele held a somewhat disorganized search last week, with some volunteers standing around in a parking lot, not knowing what to do.
Another search will be held this afternoon, said Steele’s friend Amber Davis, meeting at 4:30 p.m. in the same place where Steele’s truck was found, near the headwaters of South Canal off of Miguel Road, about two miles east of town off U.S. Highway 50.
This time, searchers will be divided into teams and will start searching at 5 p.m., Davis said. Anyone who wants to help can call Davis at 596-2604.
Davis said for the past several nights, several of Steele’s friends have gone over county maps, marking off grids that have already been searched and making plans to go over areas that have not been searched.
While law enforcement made a thorough search by land, water and air after Steele’s dogs were found safe in the same area, some have made an the assumption that Steele fell into the fast-moving canal and official search efforts have been scaled back.
POSTED July 6, 2010 7:18 p.m.:
No Sign of Steele Around Canal, but Volunteers Continue to Search on Land Friends of Rick Steele won’t give up, and they launched another search Tuesday for the Montrose DJ who has been missing since Thursday.
MONTROSE — In 90 degree heat, more than 50 volunteers showed up at South Canal on Miguel Road Tuesday afternoon to search for missing Montrose DJ Rick Steele.
Steele was last seen Thursday evening near the canal, walking his two dogs. Steele’s truck and dogs were found in the area the next day, but law enforcement searchers and the National Guard have found no clues.
Montrose County issued a press release just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday that the Montrose Sheriff’s Department, the Sheriff’s Posse and the Colorado National Guard had conducted a three-hour air search Tuesday that didn’t locate anything.
Authorities had been searching since Friday, including a helicopter search by Montrose pilot Mark Young, who went up twice, said county spokeswoman Kristin Scuderi.
The posse has set up devices in the swift moving canal to catch anything that would come downstream, Scuderi said, and there is no indication of foul play.
“But it hasn’t been ruled out because the investigation is ongoing,” she said. Deputies searched Steele’s house and truck, but nothing appeared out of place, she said.
Scuderi said she had gotten to know Steele after he interviewed her several times. She said he was a graduate of Telluride High.
“He was really nice and said come in whenever I wanted to talk about county news,” she said. “He seemed really happy.”
Steele was last seen between 7:30 and 8 p.m. on Thursday, Scuderi said, by a resident of the South Canal area.
After Steele didn’t show up for work Friday morning, his co-workers went searching for him and found his truck and dogs. One of the dogs was under the truck and the other was about three miles away.
“The dogs were in good condition,” Scuderi said. “They didn’t appear to be wet or dirty and it didn’t look like they were in the water.”
The water is swift, deep and unpredictable in the area where Steele disappeared, and much of the county’s search was in the water’s vicinity.
Scent dogs from Mesa County were brought in for the search on Saturday, Scuderi said, as well as two certified water dogs from Dolores, which ride in boats and can pick up a scent on water.
The National Guard plans to make no more searches, and the Sheriff’s Department’s search, though continuing, has been scaled back.
But that didn’t stop Derek Teel, who organized the volunteer search for his friend and former co-worker, from looking for Steele with hopes that he may still be alive.
“The assumption right now is that he’s in the canal,” Teel said.
Teel said he and other volunteers would try to cover areas not searched by authorities, with the cooperation of landowners in the area.
“They really did a good job when they were up there,” Teel said of the official search, but he still holds out hope.
“My feeling on it is that I’d rather keep looking for a live body, and I am not going to give up quite yet,” he said.
Teel, who said he’s an experienced climber, plans to use ropes to check out some old mines in the area since he said Steele had talked in the past about being interested in exploring them.
Michelle Hammon of Montrose joined the volunteer search Tuesday because Steele is her friend and neighbor, she said. Also joining her were her friend Sherri Darbe and her daughter Heather.
“We’ve known him for a long time,” Darbe said.
Lawrence Sanderson of Montrose Hell Fighters, his company that works nationwide on disasters, volunteered to join the volunteer search, bringing in all-terrain vehicles.
Hope may be fading for Steele, who had worked for the station for about 15 years, but many people are worried about him, said co-worker and KUBC reporter Janine Mayfield.
“He has that laid back kind of persona, very philosophical and likes to ponder things,” she said. “He’s a huge history and baseball buff and he cares about a lot of people.”
Mayfield said deputies interviewed her and other KUBC staff, asking if Steele had any enemies.
“We had to just laugh,” she said. “No one didn’t’ like Rick. He’s a very likeable guy and very good, very talented and very involved in his work. I never saw him in a bad mood, ever. He’s a light-hearted guy, and it’s so hard to imagine that this is happening.”
POSTED July 6, 2010 at noon:
MONTROSE — While the Montrose Sheriff’s Posse has scaled back its search for missing DJ Rick Steele, his friends are organizing a search party at 4:30 p.m. today to cover areas around South Canal, where Steele was last seen on Thursday night.
Search organizer Derek Teel said about 50 people have agreed to meet at the north end of South Canal off Miguel Road.
More are needed, Teel said, and he can be reached at 209-3288 for information.
The group will meet where Steele’s truck and one of his dogs was found on Friday, where the waters from the Gunnison Tunnel explodes out of a large pipe and gushes into the wide canal below.
Teel said he’s not ready to give up on the idea that Steele might still be alive, and since he often talked about exploring old mines, that’s one place Teel plans to search. An experienced climber, Teel plans to descend into the mines with ropes, but said other searchers will cover and not searched by the Sheriff’s Posse, which has scaled back its efforts.
To help with the search, take U.S. 50 east for about three miles, head south on Miguel Road and take the cutoff to the right to reach the headwaters of the canal.
POSTED ON JULY 4, 2010:
Montrose DJ Rick Steele Missing Since Thursday
MONTROSE — Rick Steele, 48, a popular morning DJ for KUBC Radio, has not been seen since Thursday, despite an extensive search.
KUBC reporter Janine Mayfield posted a detailed account about Steele’s disappearance on the radio station’s website at coloradoradio.com. She wrote that Steele’s coworkers found his truck around noon on Friday near U.S. Highway 50 and Miguel Road, east of Montrose near South Canal. Steele was last seen Thursday evening driving on South Canal Road.
“The Montrose County Sheriff’s Office immediately responded to the scene where one of Steele’s dogs was found alive and well. One other dog was missing, along with Steele himself. The vehicle was unlocked,” Mayfield wrote. “A short time, and several miles later, Steele’s other dog was found wandering the dirt road, healthy.”
The Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse searched the area by land and water, a scent dog was brought in from Mesa County, and a K9 water team from Dolores searched the area, but no trace of Steele was found, Mayfield reported.
“Investigators and Posse members believe Steele somehow wound up in the high, swiftly moving canal waters either as a result of a fall or in trying to rescue a dog that fell in,” Mayfield wrote.
By Sunday morning, there was still no sign of Steele according to the Montrose Dispatch Center, and searchers “will continue to monitor the dirt road that follows the canal 15 miles before it dumps in the Uncompaghre River until further notice,” Mayfield reported.
Anyone with information on Steele’s disappearance is asked to call 252-4020.