Derrick James Engebretson

Friday, March 03, 2006

Search intensifies; hope for boy fades

December 11, 1998


Search intensifies; hope for boy fades

Medford firm offers reward

Staff and wire reports

ROCKY POINT -- Three helicopters skimmed the snowy treetops and searchers fanned out on the ground Thursday in the biggest push yet to find an 8-year-old boy who vanished on a Christmas tree hunt last weekend.

Family members, who have launched a breakaway search of their own, held onto the dimming hope that Derrick Engebretson would be found alive, even after five frigid nights in southern Oregon's Winema National Forest.

"I think he's alive right now," said Ben Davis, the boy's maternal grandfather, a retired log truck driver and hunter who often took Derrick on forays into the woods. "But we've got to get him today."

The helicopters, equipped with heat-sensing gear, roared over the snowy slopes while about 100 volunteers marched gridlines through a six-mile-long crescent that has become the focus of the sheriff's organized search.

Several infrared "hot spots" have been detected, but they have turned to be nothing more than rocks, still holding heat from before they were covered with snow in a storm last weekend.

A Medford firm is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who finds the Klamath Falls boy alive.

Jackson County Financial hopes to spur more local volunteers in the search for Derrick, explained Jack Jordan, the firm's president.

"We're hoping to attract hunters and other qualified people in the right apparel to join in the search," he said.

"We've all been talking about this for a few days," Jordan said of fellow workers. "The thought of our kids being out there ... we just want to do something to help."

Moreover, they hope that other businesses will join in increasing the reward, Jordan said.

"It's crucial that we get people out there," he said.

Although some 250 volunteers are searching, the area where they are focusing is about six miles long and covered with trees and brush, the Klamath County Sheriff's Department says.

The sheriff's department is coordinating 190 volunteers. Local residents are encouraged to check with law enforcement officials at the site before joining in the search.

Moreover, about 60 volunteers are helping the family in its own search, which focused more on the area where the boy was last seen Saturday. The family has also branched out to other areas, including a spot on Pelican Butte marked on a map by an amateur psychic in Reno, Nev.

Nicknamed "Bear Boy" by his family for his skill as a hunter and hiker, the brown-haired third-grader was last seen carrying a small hatchet, and was dressed warmly in a snowmobile suit, hat and gloves.

Family members held out hope that he used the small hatchet to build a shelter.

Sheriff Carl Burkhart said the search would go on as long as there was a chance of finding Derrick.

"I don't think a little boy can last out there very long," he added. "We need to gather support. ... We want an army out there looking."





Copyright © The Mail Tribune 1998, Medford, Oregon USA

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