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Boulders, brush and bravery, but no boy


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The Oregonian
Portland, Oregon
October 18, 2006

Helicopters join climbers and horse teams in third day of search at Crater Lake

CRATER LAKE -- Improved weather Tuesday returned helicopters to the air and searchers to the woods in the increasingly desperate hunt for an 8-year-old Portland boy missing in Crater Lake National Park for three days.

"Everyone is still very hopeful and very positive," said Gary Panich, a National Park Service search supervisor. "We still think we're in a window of opportunity for a good result."

But searchers haven't turned up any sign of Samuel Boehlke since he disappeared Saturday in the woods north of the lake while touring the park with his father.

Rain Sunday and snow Monday hampered searchers, grounded helicopters and turned roads to ice while encasing the surrounding subalpine forest in a cold, white shell.

But Tuesday, one of two helicopters at the scene took advantage of clearing skies to make passes along the caldera rim above the lake, elevation 6,200 feet. Nearby, an elite team of climbers from Yosemite National Park rappelled down the rocks to inspect hidden ledges.

Meanwhile, nearly 175 searchers on foot or horseback paced through stands of hemlock and pine looking for the boy.

"As far as resources, this is one of the biggest (searches) that we've had since I've been here," said Pete Reinhardt, operations supervisor for the search and a Crater Lake employee for 14 years.

It's not uncommon for hikers to be late coming in during the summer or for winter backcountry skiers to become stranded, but disappearances are rare, Reinhardt said.

The search is focused on a 4,000-acre area above the north shore of the lake, a part of the park with few trails, thick forest, occasional pumice plains and numerous outcroppings of lava rock.

The boy was last seen on a rock embankment above the 33-mile rim road that winds along the caldera. On one side of the road, the embankment leads up into the forest. On the other, a low rock wall winds along steep cliffs that drop about 800 feet to the blue water below.


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