Queens hiker dies in Shandaken woods

When police found Queens resident Keith Johnson, 46, in the woods near Phoenicia on May 12, he was alive but unresponsive. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police reports. The New York Daily News reported that Johnson, a music teacher in a Queens public school, had been showing signs of distress recently.

The search began when the Shandaken Police Department received information about a missing person from New York City who was possibly hiking in the area. The police located Johnson’s car at the Woodland Valley trailhead.

New York State Forest Rangers found Johnson, suffering from hypothermia and exposure, several miles from the trailhead. Medical care was provided by the rangers until members of the Shandaken Ambulance arrived and took over care, but they were unable to save him. Shandaken Police have been working with the New York City Police Department’s missing person squad, and at this time no foul play is suspected.

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A neighbor saw Johnson about to leave his home in Kew Gardens on Saturday, May 5. He said Johnson, who was generally kind and thoughtful, said he was going camping but seemed upset and “not himself.” Colleagues at the school where he worked said he had changed in the past few months, easily becoming upset and tending to curse. When he failed to arrive at work the following Monday and Tuesday, a teacher and Johnson’s brother went to his apartment, according to the New York Post, and finally reported him missing on Friday. Johnson was described as an avid hiker who often went camping with a friend but set off on this trip alone.

Police were assisted at the scene by the New York State Forest Rangers, New York State DEC Police, Shandaken Ambulance, Phoenicia Fire Department, Olive Fire Department, and the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office. The Shandaken Police, along with members of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office Detective division, are continuing to investigate. Anyone with information about Mr. Johnson should contact Officer Sean Ryan at (845) 688-9902, sryan@shandakenpolice.org or Detective Albert Babcock at (845) 338-3640, abab@co.ulster.ny.us.

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