A Colorado coroner hopes to learn Monday how a Mishawaka ER doctor skiing and hiking in the backcountry died.
Dr. James McGrogan’s autopsy is scheduled to happen on Saturday.
The St. Joseph Regional Medical Center ER physician disappeared three weeks ago after getting separated from friends.
Locals found McGrogan’s body Thursday in one of the areas search and rescue crews had already looked, called an ice fall. Eagle County, Colorado Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jessie Mosher described an ice fall as a frozen waterfall that flows down a steep slope.
Visibility is low in that area, Mosher told WSBT, which could explain why crews missed him during their five day search.
Investigators still believe McGrogan’s disappearance and death were accidental, she said, adding it would be very easy to fall down an ice fall since McGrogan was not familiar with the terrain.
But there are still so many unanswered questions about his death – including how he got separated from friends while skiing in the snowy, mountainous backcountry near Vail.
“We have a search and rescue crew that's deployed fairly often throughout the winter and summer months just due to the fact that we live in the Rocky Mountains and that [Colorado] is a very active state, Mosher said. “But I wouldn't say it's very common for us to have these where they go missing and unfortunately we're not able to locate them.”
McGrogan and his group were using something called split skis – a snowboard that splits into skis and is used by many people who hike the backcountry trails to cabins.
Local skiers discovered McGrogan’s body more than 2 weeks after that search ended, about 4 ½ miles from the trail he planned to use. Police initially said the doctor’s friends took a break the day he disappeared and he went ahead of the group, planning to meet them at the hut.
But McGrogan’s dad told WSBT one of the other men with his son that day said McGrogan as pretty close to the group the entire time – and they weren’t sure how or when he got separated.
He had a GPS, warm clothes, food and basic medical supplies with him when he disappeared, police said. McGrogan also had a cell phone, Mosher said, adding investigators got one ping off that phone from the Friday he disappeared, but nothing else after that.
McGrogan had the phone and equipment with him when the locals found his body yesterday, she said.
Family members gathered at the doctor’s childhood home in Chesteron Friday where his parents still live. One of McGrogan’s sisters told WSBT the family is not interested in talking publicly about the situation right now – saying they ‘just found out’ and are ‘trying to grieve.’
McGrogan leaves behind his wife and two young kids. There was no word Friday on when his body will be back in Chesterton for his funeral.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: The following release was issued by the Eagle County, Colorado coroner:
"Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis has confirmed the identity of the person found yesterday (4/3) in the Booth Falls area north of Vail as 39-year-old James McGrogan of Chesterton, Ind.
"McGrogan was reported missing after becoming separated from his group while hiking to the Eiseman Hut on March 14. His body was found by a group of back country skiers approximately 4 and a half miles east of the trail to the hut.
"Bettis says the cause and manner of death will be determined after an autopsy is performed."
ORIGINAL STORY: Family members of a missing local doctor are getting the news they feared but expected.
The Eagle County, Colo. Sheriff's Department late Thursday night said three skiers found a dead body in an ice fall below Booth Falls, an area north of Vail. Police believe it's the body of 39-year-old Jim McGrogan of Chesterton, an emergency room doctor at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka.
McGrogan was reported missing after he became separated from his group while hiking to the Eiseman Hut on March 14. Search and rescue efforts were called off after an exhaustive search lasting five days with no clues of McGrogan's whereabouts.
Booth Falls is located approximately four-and-a-half miles east of the trail that leads to the Eiseman Hut. This area was searched by aviation and ground crews during the five day search for McGrogan.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Police Department and Vail Mountain Rescue Group worked collaboratively on Thursday’s incident.
Sheriff's officials say the victim's name and cause of death will be determined and released by the Eagle County coroner's office.