Missing Geologist Crashed in Ravine. That Wasn't the End

Collision report suggests Daniel Robinson may have tried to restart rolled vehicle
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2021 10:00 AM CDT
Updated Nov 4, 2021 11:09 AM CDT
Father of Man Missing 3 Months: I've 'Done More' Than Cops
Daniel Robinson has been missing in Arizona since June 23.   (PleaseHelpFindDaniel.com)

Update: The wrecked vehicle of geologist Daniel Robinson, who's been missing in Arizona since June, sped up immediately before it crashed into a desert ravine, the Buckeye Police Department said Wednesday. The acceleration may "indicate an attempt to drive up the other side of the ravine," police added, per CNN, citing a collision report. It identified more than 40 "ignition cycles" after the crash, suggesting attempts to restart the vehicle, though it's unclear if those were triggered by the driver or by the vehicle's recovery. Police continue to investigate. Our original story from Sept. 21 follows:

The very public search for Gabby Petito has one family urging a similar response to the disappearance of a 24-year-old man in Arizona. Daniel Robinson, a geologist who oversaw sites in the remote desert, has been missing for three months since he was last seen leaving a work site in Buckeye on June 23, per the Arizona Republic. A landowner found his badly damaged 2017 blue Jeep Renegade, with its airbags deployed, in a ravine about 4 miles southwest of the work site on July 19. It appeared to have rolled. Police said evidence suggested Robinson was wearing his seatbelt at the time. But while his wallet, phone, keys, and clothing were found at the site, there was no sign of Robinson himself.

His family has suggested the crash site was staged. With donated funds, they hired a private investigator who reportedly found evidence that the vehicle was driven after it crashed. In a petition demanding action from the Buckeye Police Department—with more than 12,100 signatures as of this writing—Robinson's father, David, who traveled to Arizona from South Carolina, says he's "done more to find my son than the law enforcement agency," which "has not gathered any evidence of their own" and is "unwilling to move beyond their theory which leads to non-action on their part." He claims to have performed seven searches that "recovered the remains of about six people."

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A human skull found near Robinson’s Jeep was determined not to be his. "No other human remains have been found, despite online reports claiming otherwise," police said in a Thursday statement, per the Republic. They say foul play isn't suspected—hence why this remains a missing person investigation rather than a criminal one—and authorities have used a helicopter, drone, and cadaver dogs to search 70 square miles for Robinson. They also obtained limited call records and "it did not appear that Daniel made any calls or texts after leaving the site," according to a July statement, per KSAZ. Robinson, a Black man easily identifiable as he doesn't have a right forearm or hand, is described as 5'8" with black hair and brown eyes. (More missing person stories.)

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