UPDATE: Brownlee's body was recovered by rescue helicopter Wednesday, according to the Hillsdale County Office of Emergency Management. Brownlee's family were on-site and notified immediately.
Former Kansas track and field runner Ben Brownlee was presumed dead Tuesday after a two-day search in the San Juan Mountains near Lake City, Colorado, according to a news release from the Hillsdale County Office of Emergency Management.
Brownlee, 26, was first reported missing Sunday after he didn't return from a solo hiking trip. Described as an “experienced and avid hiker” by the Hillsdale County Office of Emergency Management, Brownlee originally planned to hike multiple 13,000-foot peaks in the San Juan area. He was last seen hiking in the area east of Redcloud Peak Saturday morning.
Following a two-day search, Brownlee was presumed dead. A body matching his description was located by a helicopter at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Brownlee’s family was notified immediately.
Recovery began Wednesday morning, according to the Hillsdale County Office of Emergency Management.
Brownlee was a member of the Kansas men’s cross country and track and field teams from 2012-16. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing.
Former teammates and coaches shared their condolences Wednesday.
“Ben was a valued member of our team,” Kansas track and field head coach Stanley Redwine said in a Kansas Athletics release. “My prayers are with his family, teammates and friends. We will miss his great smile and personality.”
Kansas track and field assistant coach Michael Whittlesey said Brownlee had “such enthusiasm and love for his family, friends, KU and hiking.”
“So sad to hear of the passing of Ben Brownlee,” Whittlesey said in the release. “My heart goes out to all those that loved him and his family and friends and teammates.”
Rose Richmond, the director of operations and recruiting coordinator for Kansas track and field, shared her condolences and a photo of Whittlesey and Brownlee on Twitter.
“Please send your prayers up to friends and family of Ben Brownlee,” Richmond said.
Former Kansas track and field athlete Drew Matthews — who was Brownlee’s teammate 2012-16 — shared photos of Brownlee on Twitter.
Ben, I love you and can’t believe this has happened. We shared so many great memories and you had such an impact in my life. pic.twitter.com/JxCCEfmYWC— Drew Matthews (@DrewMatthewsKU) October 7, 2020
“Ben I love you and I can’t believe this has happened,” Matthews said. “We shared so many great memories and you had such an impact on my life.”