Hopes dim for boy lost in snowy mountains
Tuesday, December 8, 1998
By Jeff Barnard of The Associated Press
ROCKY POINT, Ore. (AP) -- Searchers today pursued a "hot spot" registered by heat-seeking devices on a helicopter in their search for 8-year-old Derrick Engebretson, missing since Saturday in freezing, snow-covered mountains.
Engebretson wandered away from his father and grandfather about 3 p.m. Saturday while hunting for a Christmas tree in the Winema National Forest near Pelican Butte about 20 miles south of Crater Lake National Park.
The device measures changes in temperature, and the reading could be the missing boy but could also be a large animal, Klamath County sheriff's deputies said. Searchers were unable to get to the spot Monday night.
A helicopter, a plane and a dog team joined the search Monday for the boy. About 100 people, some on horseback or snowmobiles, resumed the search today, fighting snow up to three feet deep.
The helicopter had to leave the search and land at Klamath Falls this morning because of mechanical problems.
Derrick was dressed warmly in jeans, snow boots, ski pants, gloves and a hooded coat. The third-grader also was carrying a hatchet, and the fact that he was an avid hunter familiar with the woods gave searchers and relatives hope that he would be found alive.
"We have to find him no matter what," said an aunt, Liz Davis. "He hunts up here with his grandpa all the time. They call him `Bear Boy.' He's a pretty feisty little guy."
The search centered on an area about three miles up gradually sloping, heavily wooded terrain, where the boy was last seen.
In the air, the Air Force Reserve sent in the chopper with the heat-seeking video equipment and a seven-man crew from Portland, joining a search plane from the Civil Air Patrol.
The search was called off for the night around 9 p.m. Monday, but the boy's parents, Robert and Lori Engebretson, and other family members stayed later into the night looking for their son.
"They little guy's out there in the storm," said Lee Davis, Derek's great-grandfather. "They kind of want to be out there in the storm."
Officials at Crater Lake National Park said chances that a person can survive even two nights in the snow with temperatures well below freezing were questionable. By 11 p.m., the temperature in nearby Klamath Falls already was at 25 degrees. The night before, the temperature dropped to 5 degrees.
Park ranger George Buckingham, who helps coordinate search and rescue efforts at the park, said key factors include whether a person is warmly dressed, can find shelter, has some food and, most critically, can stay dry.
"No one is willing to say whether someone will or will not be able to stay alive. There are always exceptions," he said.