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Search for boy winds down

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Herald & News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
October 21, 2006
By LAURA McVICKER


CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK - The tone at Crater Lake National Park on Friday changed from a desperate search to find a missing 8-year-old Portland boy to a dismal reality that park officials likely won't find him alive.

“(Thursday) was pretty much the last major push,” said search spokesman Rudy Evenson. “The probability of survival is pretty low by now.” Samuel Boehlke of Portland has been missing since last Saturday afternoon when he got separated from his father, Ken, during an outing to Crater Lake.


By Friday, the number of searchers decreased from nearly 200 to 35, who were mostly park officials and local search and rescue teams, including a team from the Klamath County Sheriff's Office.

They spent the morning taking down search-grid markers in 3,000 acres of terrain surrounding Sammy's last known location. They had earlier scoured every crevice, but found nothing. For a week, searchers scaled rugged terrain on horseback. They used dogs, rappelled down the caldera and searched by helicopter with infrared cameras.

On Thursday, searchers from rescue teams throughout the West Coast gradually left to move onto other pressing assignments as the urgency in Sammy's search declined, Evenson said. The long-term plan is to periodically search the area 500 yards from the Cleetwood Cove parking lot until winter, he added.

Officials have expressed frustration over the fruitless search, and say Sammy's fear of loud noises made the search more difficult. The boy has a high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder, which causes him to have extreme reactions to loud noises.

Searchers were unable to use sirens or whistles to find Sammy, and say the disorder also causes him to hide, creating a roadblock they wouldn't experience with another lost person, Evenson said.

Sammy liked to play hide and seek with his dad, Evenson said, and was running ahead of his dad into a forested area when his father lost sight of him. Park officials then mounted the search Saturday evening.

Sammy's mother arrived at Crater Lake this week from Europe, and several family members, including the boy's parents, stayed nearby.

Though they've declined to speak with the media, the family, in a statement, expressed appreciation to searchers “for their incredible conduct, kindness and superb efforts on behalf of our families. We appreciate the sacrifice their families are making for them to be here.”

 

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