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Missing Kansas man pens love letters to family as he dies alone

October 30, 2013|By Soumya Karlamangla
  • David Welch's body was found Oct. 18 with his crashed vehicle at the bottom of a ravine in southern Utah.
David Welch's body was found Oct. 18 with his crashed vehicle at the… (Associated Press )

As David Welch penned notes to his family during his dying moments to tell them he loved them, the city he left was making a valiant effort to find him.

Welch, 54, drove away from his home in Manhattan, Kan., on Sept. 2 without telling anyone where he was going or when he'd be back, according to Riley County police spokesman Matthew Droge. Welch was found dead Oct. 18 at the bottom of a Utah ravine, nearly 900 miles from home.  The letters were found with him. 

During the six-week search, the city rallied behind his wife, Kelly Welch, a professor at Kansas State University, spreading the word about her husband and raising money to help find him.

Droge said that during the weeks Welch was missing, law enforcement officers frequently searched Riley County, to no avail. 

A Facebook page called "Find Dave Welch" was created in hopes of reaching him.

“There are thousands of people that care a great deal for you. We would do anything for you. We miss you so much and want you to know that we support you 110%. Your family loves you more than anything on this earth. Everyone wants you to know it's ok and we want you home. PLEASE come home soon. WE LOVE YOU," reads a post written more than six weeks after Welch went missing. 

Welch, a retired salesman with four sons and one grandchild, was looking forward to the birth of his second grandchild, according to his obituary. His family remembers him as incredibly loving and as someone who loved to help others. 

The Utah Highway Patrol notified Riley police that Welch had been found dead in his minivan at the bottom of a ravine. Although people in passing cars couldn't see the vehicle, a hitchhiker had spotted the 2000 Pontiac Montana from Interstate 70.

The day he was found, a note was posted on the Facebook page for Welch: "It is with deep sadness to report that Dave's earthly body was located."

Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Todd Johnson told The Times that Welch’s car went off the right shoulder of the interstate around Sept. 3. The injured Welch couldn’t get out of the car, he said. 

“It went airborne across the ravine, impacted on the other side and rolled onto its passenger side,” he said.

Tire marks show no indication of skidding, Johnson said, meaning Welch didn't try to correct the direction of the car. He might have fallen asleep at the wheel or been distracted, he said.

That part of the highway isn’t particularly hazardous, he said.

“I-70 spans quite a bit of southern Utah, and this is not a problem spot right here,” Johnson said. 

Welch was found with notes he wrote to his family, presumably while he was stuck in his car and knew he was going to die.

"Dave was entrapped in the vehicle down the 80-foot ravine,” his wife reportedly tweeted. “He wrote each of us a love note. He knew he was dying and there was no way out."

The accident remains under investigation. His family still doesn’t know why he left, and may never know. They have not commented publicly. 

 “It’s good to have a conclusion, but it’s an unfortunate conclusion,” Droge said. “Definitely a tragic turn of events.”

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Twitter: @skarlamangla

soumya.karlamangla@latimes.com

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