US & Canada

Fourth US man dies hunting for buried $2m treasure

Jeff Murphy Image copyright CBS
Image caption Jeff Murphy, 53, drove from his Illinois home to Yellowstone National Park to search for the bronze chest

A US man who fell to his death while searching for buried treasure in the Rocky mountains has become the fourth person to die on the hunt.

Jeff Murphy, 53, had driven his car to Yellowstone National Park from his home in Illinois to seek the buried $2m (£1.4) treasure chest.

He had been looking for the stash of gold and jewels allegedly hidden by a wealthy 86-year-old art dealer.

Officials determined that Murphy fell 500ft (152m) after his foot slipped.

According to an official report obtained by Montana TV station KULR-News, Murphy's wife had told rescuers that he had been searching for the buried treasure when he went missing on 8 June 2017.

He was found the next day by officials, who later determined that his death was not an intentional suicide.

Murphy was seeking the fortune of New Mexico millionaire Forrest Fenn. The antiques dealer wrote a 24-line poem in his 2010 memoir that he claimed led to the treasure.

He said he wanted to encourage people to spend more time outdoors, using the hunt as a way to "get the kids off the couch and away from the game machine".

The Romanesque chest, he says, is buried above the elevation of 5,000ft somewhere in the Rocky Mountains between Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Canadian border.

His mysterious poem ends with the following lines: "So hear me all and listen good, Your effort will be worth the cold.

"If you are brave and in the wood, I give you title to the gold."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thousands of people have tried to find Mr Fenn's treasure

Three other people have died seeking the chest, which Mr Fenn says contains "hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs, ancient Chinese carved jade figures, Pre-Columbian gold animal artifacts, lots of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds and other things".

Many, including the widow of one Colorado pastor who died on the search, have criticised Mr Fenn's treasure as a "hoax".

But he has dismissed them, saying that all outdoor adventure activities are inherently dangerous.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Paris Wallace, 52, died near Santa Fe last year

"Life is too short to wear both a belt and suspenders," he told the New York Times last year.

"If someone drowns in the swimming pool we shouldn't drain the pool, we should teach people to swim."

Last year, in an effort to prevent further deaths, he told the public not to strain themselves while searching.

"No one should search in a place where an 80-year-old man could not hide it," he said.

According to the report obtained by KULR, Murphy had emailed Mr Fenn in the days before his death. Mr Fenn had also contacted Yellowstone officials during the search, and "offered to pay for a helicopter to find the missing man".

He also reportedly said he had never been to the area where Murphy fell, which officials said was near the Turkey Pen Peak overlooking the Yellowstone River in the state of Wyoming.

Murphy is survived by his wife and two children.

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