Family Of Missing Boy Criticizes Search and Rescue
Posted: 12/15/02 6:29 am
Family of missing boy criticizes search and rescue
KLAMATH FALLS (AP) - The parents of missing 8-year-old Derrick Engebretson want to see different people in charge of the Klamath County search and rescue.
Lori and Robert Engebretson support the need for a search and rescue team, but said the leadership of the team is ``too political'' and didn't act quickly enough in the early stages after Derrick went missing on a snowy mountainside Dec. 5.
Derrick was with his father and grandfather hunting for a Christmas tree when the boy got lost near Pelican Butte in the Winema National Forest.
Members of a search and rescue dive team on Tuesday checked a spot on the Upper Klamath Lake near Malone Springs where it appeared someone had gone through the ice, about two miles north of where Derrick disappeared. But no sign of him was found, Sheriff Carl Burkhart said.
An extensive search involving hundreds of volunteers has turned up nothing. The search was conducted by the Klamath County Sheriff's Department, which coordinates the county's volunteer search and rescue team.
The team's leadership has been criticized for not responding quickly enough to start a search for the boy.
Detective Bud Wilson, the leader of the search and rescue team, has been criticized for not sending team members to the search site sooner the night Derrick disappeared. A dispatcher said Wilson seemed reluctant to break up the team's Christmas party in the early hours of the search.
``(Search and rescue) needs to be completely out of the police department. It's too political,'' Lori Engebretson said. ``It should be state-run and (members) need to do training constantly.''
Burkhart said funding is a problem for search and rescue, but he said Wilson does a good job and doesn't deserve the criticism he's been receiving.
Search and rescue's budget of about $6,000 is funded through donations.
Lori Engebretson also questioned why the sheriff and Wilson apparently turned away experts willing to help in the search. She points to several cases in which they say searchers who offered resources such as tracking dogs were told they weren't needed.
``We never did think they did everything they could, but we weren't going to be critical,'' Lori Engebretson said. ``What would it have hurt to break up a Christmas party so Derrick could have a Christmas?''
A park service official involved in search and rescue said he did not see a reason to criticize the search leadership, despite the fact his professional search and rescue crew was not called to help until the second week of the search.
``There's a hundred ways to make those calls,'' said George Buckingham, chief ranger at Crater Lake National Park and head of the park's professional search and rescue team. ``And when to actually launch a search is a tough call. My gut was they had more than enough actual ground pounders. It can be a problem if you have too many people.
``You need to sit in Bud's seat before you get too critical. I've worked with him. He's a competent individual.''
Posted Wednesday January 13, 1999
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