Search discontinued for Marietta hiker, 66, in Joshua Tree park

The search for a missing Marietta man was suspended Friday,  according to officials with Joshua Tree National Park in California. He has not been found since he was reported missing a week ago.

More than 100 people have been searching for William Michael Ewasko, 66, during the week where temperatures have reached 99 degrees. He was supposed to contact his girlfriend after hiking last Thursday, but never did, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Office. Ewasko's companion, Mary Winston, called police from the couple's Marietta home and reported him missing Friday.

"He was to call me when he got back to his car," Winston told the AJC. "He packed a lunch, water and snacks, and planned to leave the park well before dark."

Deputies later found his rental car in the park, according to the sheriff's office. The search for Ewasko included police departments, the park's rescue team and an air and ground search.

Ewasko is an experienced hiker and had been planning his trip for a while, Winston said. He was fit and had no medical problems, she said. Foul play is not suspected, Winston said.

Located 140 miles east of Los Angeles, the Joshua Tree National Park spans more than 800,000 acres of mostly desert. The park receives approximately 1.3 million visitors each year.

Last Saturday, an injured hiker was rescued from a mountainous area in the park; the same day, a hiker experiencing chest pains was rescued by helicopter and flown to a hospital, according to KPSP Local 2 news in Thousand Palms, Calif.

Though the rescuers are no longer looking, the search for Ewasko may continue past the Fourth of July weekend.

"After rescuers rest and recover, I suspect there will be a low level search," said Joe Zarki, spokesman for the park.

This might be the first time that a search has been suspended because a person cannot be found, Zarki, adding that the park is understaffed since this is a slow season for them.

-- Staff writers Raisa Habersham and Larry Hartstein contributed to this report.