Gabby Petito case: Florida cowboy says 'no surviving' swamp where police are searching for Brian Laundrie
NORTH PORT, Fla. - "No buzzards, no body": An experienced rancher and outdoorsman who lives outside the alligator-infested nature preserve where authorities are searching for Brian Laundrie doesn’t think the fugitive is in there – alive or dead.
Florida cattle rancher Alan McEwen has spent nearly every day of the last 30 years navigating the woods where Brian Laundrie is suspected of hiding and says it's not conducive to habitation.
"There’s no surviving out here, I don’t know how to say it," McEwen told Fox News Digital.
Laundrie’s survival skills have been at the center of conversation since the 23-year-old’s parents first reported him missing Friday, Sept. 17, just two days after he was declared a person of interest in the disappearance of his fiancée, Gabby Petito. The couple was traveling across the country in the weeks leading up to Petito's death.
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After Laundrie’s parents pointed authorities toward the Carlton Reserve, a nature preserve Brian was known to frequent, many began to speculate about whether the avid hiker would be equipped to live in the depths of the 25,000-acre woods for weeks on end.
McEwen, who has been assisting North Port Police Department in searching the preserve for signs of Laundrie, remains doubtful the Youtuber has what it takes to make it more than a couple of days in the swamp-like reserve.
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"I’ve been in the woods in and out all my life … I have learned a lot in my life, and one thing I know is no one is gonna survive out there for two weeks on foot," McEwen said.
Since Laundrie reportedly entered the reserve nearly two weeks ago, torrential rainfall has flooded the area with waist-deep water, rendering the lot where Laundrie is said to have left his car unrecognizable.
"Unless he’s got a butt like a duck and can float, he’s not in there," McEwen said as he gave Fox News Digital a tour of the submerged park in his swamp buggy.
Even if Laundrie could manage to last in the wet conditions, he’d still have to face the diverse species of wildlife that have made the preserve a fascination to ecologists nationwide.
The Carlton Reserve is home to 13-foot alligators, panthers, black bears, wild boar and lethal snakes. McEwen says that even if Laundrie could manage to fend off the park’s most terrifying predators, its insects alone could be enough to do him in. "Unless he’s got a hide like a gator, the mosquitoes will carry him right off," McEwen told Fox News Digital.
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The inhospitable conditions of the park are endless, according to McEwen.
The seasoned rancher, who has had to venture deep into the Carlton’s woods to retrieve wandering cows, says the grounds of the reserve are covered in a thick brush that masks the topography of the land, making it easy for even the most experienced outdoorsman to unwittingly step into a ditch or walk off a ledge and become seriously injured.
Asked about the possibility Laundrie may have died trying to hide in the reserve, McEwen was certain Laundrie’s body would have been found by now.
"Anything dead you find in the woods, you're gonna look up, you’re gonna see buzzards flying like crazy," he said. "No buzzards, no body is my theory. And I haven’t seen any buzzards flying."
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To add to the unlikelihood that Brian is still in the park, McEwen showed Fox News Digital how easy it would be for someone to enter the preserve and take off in any direction, highlighting different passageways that lead to either a long-stretching highway, vast everglades or acres of ranch land.
"He could be anywhere," McEwen surmised.
Many were skeptical that Laundrie’s parents, who have remained silent and uncooperative as law enforcement investigates the death of their son’s deceased fiancée, were being forthright when they directed authorities to the Carlton.
The reserve’s treacherous conditions are not the only thing that gives McEwen, a father of five, pause in believing the Laundries. "I’d be out there right now looking for them – if that’s where I thought he was," he told Fox News Digital.
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Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, whose house has been staked out by media for two weeks, have been absent from all search efforts. Having only left their West Florida home a couple of times to run basic errands and tend to their yard, Laundrie’s parents have refrained from speaking aside from a few vague statements made through their New York-based attorney.
"I couldn’t imagine having a child missing like this. I would go nuts. I wouldn’t be out mowing my lawn, I could promise you that. That’s the last place I’d be." McEwen said.
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