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Kansas man goes missing, leaves precious missives behind

David Welch vanished from his Kansas home on Labor Day weekend, driving away without telling anyone. When he hadn’t returned after a few days, his family reported him missing.

It took more than six weeks to find out what had happened, and the why is still a mystery.

Welch, 54, died trapped in his wrecked minivan at the bottom of a Utah ravine, nearly 900 miles from his home in Manhattan, Kan. The Utah Highway Patrol found his body Oct. 18 after a hitchhiker spotted the car from Interstate 70. His family last saw him Sept. 2, Labor Day.

Although his relatives don’t know why he left, they know he loved them. That’s because he wrote them notes while he was dying.

"Dave was entrapped in the vehicle down the 80-foot ravine,” his wife, Kelly, reportedly tweeted. “He wrote each of us a love note. He knew he was dying and there was no way out."

The Highway Patrol told the Associated Press that officials would not disclose the contents of the notes because they were personal.

A Facebook page called “Find Dave Welch” included a post addressed to Welch just two days before his body was found: “There are thousands of people that care a great deal for you. We would do anything for you. We miss you so much and want you to know that we support you 110%. Your family loves you more than anything on this earth. Everyone wants you to know it's ok and we want you home. PLEASE come home soon. WE LOVE YOU.”

Highway Patrol Cpl. Todd Johnson told the Los Angeles Times that Welch’s 2000 Pontiac Montana went off the right shoulder of I-70 around Sept. 3. The injured Welch couldn’t get out of the car, he said.

“It went airborne across the ravine, impacted on the other side and rolled onto its passenger side,” he said.

Tire marks show no indication of skidding, Johnson said, meaning Welch didn't try to correct the direction of the car. He might have fallen asleep at the wheel or been distracted, he said.

That part of the highway isn’t particularly hazardous, he said.

“I-70 spans quite a bit of southern Utah, and this is not a problem spot right here,” Johnson said. 

The accident is under investigation. His family still doesn’t know why he left, and may never find out.

But Twitter has proved a source of solace for Kelly Welch, a professor at Kansas State University. 

@DrKellyWelch strength and prayers to you and your family. The love you two shared is an inspiration to us all.

— Matthew Alonzo (@Mauthyouh) October 25, 2013


Praying for @DrKellyWelch and her family today, she is the biggest inspiration at KState. #weloveyou #ksufamily

— Ashlee Marie¿ (@ambrown13) October 25, 2013

My thoughts and prayers are with one of my favorite #KSU professors, @DrKellyWelch and her family today. God bless!

— Ryan Leigh McElhaney (@RyanLeighMac) October 24, 2013

@DrKellyWelch Kelly Welch IS KSU. You are our inspiration every day. We'll be there. And we'll be your rock. #kstatefamily

— Kim Markward (@kmarkward2) October 24, 2013

Prayers to @DrKellyWelch on her loss. Our worst fears have been realized. http://t.co/rTjNqYEelM

— Tim Fitzgerald (@LifeofFitz) October 18, 2013

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Twitter: @skarlamangla

soumya.karlamangla@latimes.com

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