A woman accused of providing false information about a missing hiker in Grand Teton National Park has been banned from the park for five years, officials said.
The woman, Heather Mycoskie, 40, may not enter the park in northwest Wyoming under a deferred prosecution agreement, park officials said in a statement on Thursday. She must also pay $17,600 in restitution.
The National Park Service said it spent about 532 hours conducting searches and investigations in response to the false report.
“This wasted valuable time that could have been focused on searching areas of higher probability and it cost the federal government approximately $17,600,” the statement said.
The missing hiker, Cian McLaughlin, is from Ireland and was last seen on June 8, 2021.
About two weeks after Mr. McLaughlin disappeared, Ms. Mycoskie told investigators that she had seen and spoken with him and that he was heading south toward Taggart Lake where he planned to jump off his favorite rock into the water.
Parks officials said a subsequent investigation revealed that this did not happen.
Other potential sightings of Mr. McLaughlin were north of Taggart Lake on a trail system that leads to Garnet Canyon, Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes, and Delta Lake. An updated missing person’s flier says he was last seen on the Lupine Meadows trail system leading to those lakes.
Mr. McLaughlin had searched online for Delta Lake, an alpine lake and popular destination in the park, before his hike, park officials said.
The missing person’s flier said he was wearing a red Apple watch, white short-sleeve T-shirt, silver U-shaped pendant and gold-rimmed sunglasses when he went missing.
Park officials said that Ms. Mycoskie said on June 21, 2021, that she had seen a person matching the description of Mr. McLaughlin on the day he disappeared. She provided a “very detailed” description of him and said they had a conversation in which he shared where he lived, where he was from and where he worked.
Witnesses told investigators that Ms. Mycoskie had fabricated the sighting to make sure search efforts continued, the statement said.
Ms. Mycoskie, who lived in Jackson, Wyo., and now lives in Costa Rica, did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. McLaughlin’s mother, Grainne McLaughlin, told RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, that her son worked as a snowboard instructor during the winter and in a bar during the summer.
Ms. McLaughlin was in Wyoming in June for the anniversary of her son’s disappearance and said she had been told about the false report.
“But we very quickly put that behind us to refocus on the higher mountain areas and now that we are back here in Wyoming as the snow begins to melt, the rangers have continued to study the map and terrain and identify other search areas,” Ms. McLaughlin said.
She said that “from everybody’s point of view, we know that he went missing in the mountains, he went missing on this hike and something tragic happened.”