Missing Teacher Found Dead

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A Downtown High School teacher who went missing in July in El Dorado County is dead, according to that County’s coroner’s office.

San Francisco resident Edward Cavanaugh, 45, died sometime in July or August. He’d been visiting a home he owned in El Dorado County, spending time riding his blue Yamaha YZ 250 on the Rock Creek trail system with another person. Cavanaugh went missing after the two parted ways. A search team consisting of Cavanaugh’s family found his body at about 11:20 a.m. August 4. The cause of death has yet to be determined, but Cavanaugh suffered from diabetes.

“Our family would like to thank every single individual who has worked so hard to bring Ed home,” a statement issued by his family said. “We are overwhelmed with the kindness, generosity and support that has been shown by all in finding Ed. It truly is a testament to Ed’s extraordinary spirit and beautiful soul. Ed has touched so many lives in countless ways. We hope all who love Ed find comfort in knowing that his bright spirit is with us all during this heartbreaking time.”

The search for Cavanaugh started on July 24, a week after he went missing. The Rock Creek trail system is in the area of the Georgetown Divide, between Mosquito and Garden Valley.  El Dorado County is located east of Sacramento and west of South Lake Tahoe. State Highway 50, which runs east and west, nearly bisects the county.

Search efforts started with 50 volunteers from five counties; as many as 250 or more people searched for Cavanaugh at one point.  Would-be rescuers relied on horses, off-road vehicles, a California Highway Patrol helicopter, California Rescue Dog Association, Inc. (CARDA) – a group of volunteers with specially trained dogs which can smell the scent of a decomposing body – high angle rope teams, and a U.S. Coast Guard air unit. 

On July 29 the California National Guard deployed a MQ-9 Reaper, a remotely piloted aircraft, in an attempt to find Cavanaugh. It was the first time an aircraft of this type has been used for a search and rescue operation. The National Guard used a MQ-9 Reaper in 2013 to help firefighters extinguish the Rim Fire, which burned more than 256,000 acres, cost more the $127 million, destroyed 11 homes, injured 10, and was the third largest fire in California history. An MQ-9 Reaper can travel where manned aircraft cannot, snapping aerial photos, which National Guard crews and civilian partners receive instantly. 

On August 4 a member of the family search team located a motorcycle matching the one Cavanaugh was riding and a body nearby. The corpse was off the established trail system in a brush-filled area west of Slate Mountain.

Cavanaugh taught for the San Francisco Unified School District for 14 years, a majority of those at Downtown High School.  He led “Get out and learn” at the Ft. Miley Military Reservation in San Francisco, where pupils learned and had the opportunity to find a job as Ft. Miley staff.  He enjoyed sharing his love of science and nature with students. School district officials said in a statement that Cavanaugh was an outstanding educator, changing his students’ lives for the better.

Cavanaugh is survived by his parents, Edward and Marilyn Cavanaugh, sisters Karen Cavanaugh and Deborah Cavanaugh-Schultz, and brother Kevin Cavanaugh.