Bruce Colburn - Disturbing deaths in U.S. national parks

Bruce Colburn, Disappeared October 9th, 2008, Body Found October 29th 2008, Kintla Lake, Glacier National park.

Bruce  Colburn, 53, came  to Glacier  National  Park  in the fall of 2008 from Reading, Pennsylvania for an apparent wilderness adventure. He was until this trip,  president and CEO of Kadent Corp, a bill collection service company for hospitals and health clinics.

He told his family he would be gone for anywhere from a week to a month. It was late in the hiking season, so the park was quiet at that time of the year. He flew into Glacier Park International Airport on October 7, spent the night in a hotel, and got a ride to the park from a hotel employee to Glacier’s North Fork area. Colburn told the employee that he would be in contact in around 2 weeks when he returned from the hike.

On October 8th Bruce told a park ranger he planned to hike into the wilderness and the ranger reported that Bruce had brand new equipment including a backpack and tent.

Glacier national park

The  ranger told Colburn that  he needed  a permit  to camp overnight  in the backcountry,  but he seemingly wanted to avoid paperwork and he spent the night where he did not need a permit at the Kintla Lake Campground.

Kintla Lake glacier national park

The next morning, on October 9, Bruce headed out along Kintla Lake and that was the last time he was seen alive. On October 23, park officials were contacted by the hotel employee that had given Colburn a ride to the park on October 8 that they were concerned about his welfare. An initial aerial and ground search were conducted on Sunday, October 26th by park personnel who hiked and searched trail corridors around Kintla Lake, including the Bowman Lake drainage, and the trail system leading to Goat Haunt; however no clues or evidence were found.  More than 30 people were involved in the search including NPS personnel, U.S. Border Patrol agents, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue personnel and the FBI.

Kintla Lake glacier national park

A subsequent search over the following days by Park Rangers searching the ground near the head of Kintla Lake, in the park’s remote northwest corner, found a pack matching the description of Colburn’s pack (greyish in colour) in thick forest on October 29th. An aerial search using a Minuteman Helicopter was started and Colburn’s body was found within minutes at around 5pm, on a slope above the trail from where this pack was found about a quarter-mile south of the head of the lake, in a brush-choked avalanche chute. It appeared that he had left the Kintla Lake trail and scrambled upslope to a point approximately one quarter to one-third of a mile above the lake.

According to the Flathead County Coroner’s Office, the death was considered a suicide caused by a self-inflicted single gunshot wound to the chest. It became apparent that Bruce had been let go from Kadent Corp. and was unemployed when he arrived in the Glacier Park area. Family members had informed park authorities that Colburn was carrying a .40-caliber Beretta handgun, which was found at the scene.

A disturbing death in a beautiful spot in the Glacier National Park. Was it a simple case of depression and suicide caused by Bruce's firing from his CEO role or something more sinister? Another sad story in a U.S. national park.