February 9, 2022 906 PM
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK — A team of state and federal agencies have been searching Big Bend National Park for Fort Stockton residents Hector Flores, Jr., 49, and his daughter Luna Flores, 9, who entered the park on Jan. 28 and have since gone missing.
A vehicle belonging to Hector Flores, Jr. — a blue 2005 Dodge 1500 truck — was discovered near a campsite on the northern end of the park’s remote Old Ore Road on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 5, by a park employee who was patrolling the area, according to National Parks Service (NPS) Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services Tom VandenBerg. Though the father and daughter were nowhere to be seen, their gear had been left behind at the site, and many of their personal belongings were in the car. Investigators believe the pair may be traveling on foot, and may not be dressed properly or have the proper equipment to camp in the park.
The search for the missing father and daughter began that afternoon and has continued through the week, involving searchers from U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also assisting in the search and is soliciting tips from anyone who may have knowledge of the Floreses’ whereabouts. A crew of 10 has been on the ground searching the area, and both Border Patrol and DPS have deployed aircrafts to assist in the search.
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Hector Flores, Sr., father of Hector Flores, Jr. and grandfather of Luna, told The Big Bend Sentinel that he and his wife were on their way to the park from their home in San Antonio. They had received a call from NPS on Saturday when his son’s truck was discovered, and were surprised to learn he had been in the park at a time when temperatures were dangerously plummeting.
“We were surprised he was out there,” said Flores. “Especially that he was out there Friday — it was very cold out there and there was a lot of ice at the time.” In the late night hours of Thursday, Feb. 3, and in the early morning hours that Friday, temperatures in the park dipped into the single digits.
“Both of them liked to be outdoors, mostly fishing and camping,” said Flores. “I just don’t know why they went this time of year when it’s pretty cold out there.”
In fact, the elements faced by Flores, Jr. and Luna are of the utmost concern to the searchers, said VandenBerg. “The big concern I think on everybody’s mind is: it was cold,” he said. “Those are some cold, cold nights.”
Old Ore Road is a fairly remote part of the park — one of Big Bend’s designated primitive backcountry roads, which requires a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle. There are nine campsites spread out along the 26-mile road, which takes about three-and-a-half hours to traverse from beginning to end. A backcountry permit is required to use the road’s campsites. The northern end of the road, where Flores’ vehicle was found, is “much rougher than the southern half,” per a ranger tip on the NPS website.
“We’re hoping for the best, praying for the best,” said Flores, Sr.
Anyone with information about the missing father and daughter are urged to call the FBI Tip Line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324). Tips can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov. Those submitting tips can remain anonymous.
This is a developing story. The Big Bend Sentinel will provide updates online as more information becomes available.