WHITERIVER — Destiny Quintero was lost for six days.

Searchers gathered daily for the missing Apache lady Destiny Quintero. Her relatives, close family, Whiteriver Police Department, Game and Fish, community members, etc. looked desperately for her. They looked on foot, vehicle, horses, and air, but by each crack of dawn approaching she was still not found.

On Tuesday August 17, Willie Zahgotah and his older brother Waylon Zahgotah set their way out on to a rugged area. Willie said that he was never at the command post and didn’t see the set up, but there should have been sections of lower bench search and marked off and searched another area. It seemed like they were only stuck to search the flat areas. Coming from Theus Lupe who was also searching they weren’t allowed to go past the vehicle that was stuck and that is where they should’ve started and move outwards when the helicopter came and did the search; then at least two or more of our locals should gone on and guided them around the area, like the rangers, or police officers.

One way we fine people was shooting large caliber rifles into the air and waiting for a response because time is critical when searching for a person. In this case we were looking for a female with no shoes, jacket, flashlight, or even a lighter or matches to keep her warm.

Willie is taught and trained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and he is telling you his perspective because this is how he is taught through firefighting. With hunting, it is a lot more but these are the important points. Willie has previously worked under the Supervision of Brian Quintero as a Fort Apache Hot Shots crew member, and is currently employed with BIA Fuels Management under the Supervision of Danny Taylor.

Waylon talked about how a woman shouldn’t have been left out in a wilderness to walk for days. Willie, who is a BIA Fire Fighter, took a day off from his work in attempt to find her. The brothers talked about how they had faith and knew from their instinct they would find her and where to look. They started early Tuesday morning and advised the Game Rangers they were going into a closed area. The other tribal members were looking in another area and the two men knew where they were headed. They explained how rough the terrain was, the floods on the road, rivers were rough, and they had to cross it three times with the water up to their waist, but they kept going. Waylon also worked with the Fort Apache Hotshots also under the Supervision of Brian Quintero and also with BIA Fuels Management.

On Monday, Waylon talked about being in this same area KL Ranch to help search. He talked about how he went to KL because everyone else was at the Loafer Bench on the top. He said he walked into the wilderness area and thought he heard her scream, but at the same time a helicopter was covering the area. He tried to listen but couldn’t hear her anymore. Monday night he had a dream about a young lady and said he thinks it was her.

Tuesday morning, he told his brother Willie about it and Willie took leave to go back up to KL Ranch with Waylon. He said the roads were really tough, but Willie’s truck could go anywhere so they made it to the cabin at KL Ranch and they split up from there. They started to see her foot tracks and started to follow it. They covered almost six miles walking. Willie took a different route knowing that he would meet up with the other guys but need to cover this area in a different way. Willie saw Destiny and she started to cry when she saw him. She told him she was lost for six days and continued crying. She was covered by a small blanket with no shoes. He gave her a sandwich, soda and a jacket. She told him that she had to jump off a cliff to get away from 3 mountain lions and wolves.

And, this is where he found the young lady Destiny Quintero whom was lost for six days.

Willie and Waylon talked about a miracle happening in this girl’s life and they were thankful to be able to find and follow her footsteps in the mud. They contacted the Game Wardens and they came to get her. She had punctured her lungs, was dehydrated, and had to be flown to Tucson.

The boy’s mother (Debbie Paxson) said, “My boys are both good hunters and they are really good outdoors men. My sons are raising their kids hunting sheds, wood cutting and fishing. They are always venturing off alone with just their backpack getting dropped off early in the morning. My oldest son is 41 years old and the second oldest if 40. They risked their own lives to be out there.”

Lastly, with a lump in Waylon throat he said, “the wilderness is no place for a woman and that site is not a hunting area either.

White Mountain Apache Reservation consists of 1.67 million acres of land and some parts of it is deep forest and this is where Destiny Quintero walked on foot for six days. She walked on foot near the stream where Willie Zahgotah and Waylon Zahgotah were able to follow this to find her. Willie stated that they just do the same thing they always do when they hunt. The pictures they took of the footprints were barely visible to a non-hunters’ eyes. Somehow, they saw that and started tracking her.

Ashley McCreery stated on Facebook, “It’s a good day. What a miraculous outcome. There is no one better than the ones already out there. The true hunters and woodcutters. That’s their playground, their backyard, and even a drone couldn’t find her. I’m proud of all of you!!”

The brothers stated that it was a group effort from the East Fork Boys!!!

(2) comments


These brothers are amazing heroes. We have too many go missing and are never found in Navajo County.


So glad she was found. Prayers for her. The young men are amazing.

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