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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Search efforts scaled back

Ben Isaacson dismantles a  base camp Friday at Crater Lake in the weeklong search for 8-year-old Sammy Boehlke, of Portland. The search for the child who ran away from his father at Crater Lake National Park last Saturday was scaled back as hopes that he could be found alive diminished. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Jeff Barnard Associated Press

CRATER LAKE, Ore. – Searchers who have been hiking the wilds of Crater Lake National Park through snow and rain the past week looking for an 8-year-old boy spent Friday dismantling base camp and gathering orange and pink plastic ribbons that marked reference points for their search.

Though the search won’t be formally called off until the fate of Sammy Boehlke, of Portland, is known, it was scaled back from more than 200 people at its high to just 35 after it became plain that there was little chance of finding the boy alive.

“It’s not a good feeling on my part when you think you’ve still got Sammy out there,” said William Fouts, deputy logistics chief for the National Park Service management team that ran the search. “But sometimes that’s what we have to deal with.”

The boy’s family remained in seclusion at the park, but through a search spokesman, they expressed their thanks to all the people who tried to find him since he disappeared Saturday afternoon from his father’s side.

“We appreciate the sacrifice their families are making for them to be here,” the family said in a statement.

Searchers said the effort was complicated by the fact that Sammy suffers from a disorder that his family said causes him to run away or hide with his hands over his ears when he hears loud noises.

Sammy and his father, Kenneth Boehlke, were at Diamond Lake Resort last weekend with family and decided to drive up to Crater Lake, authorities have said.

While pulled over at a turnout on Rim Drive overlooking Crater Lake, Sammy ran across the road, hiding from his father. After he disappeared into the woods, his father could not find him and flagged down a passing car to call for help.

Local park personnel mounted a search Saturday evening and, aware of Sammy’s condition, called in a Park Service management team, which organized an intense grid search of the rugged terrain.

Though tracking dogs picked up an occasional scent of the boy, there was no other clue to where he could have gone.

Throughout the search, a pink plastic ribbon tied around the barkless trunk of a dead tree marked the place the boy was last seen on a rocky ridge overlooking Rim Drive and the deep volcanic lake.

Searchers equipped with Global Positioning Systems marched in long lines through the heavy timber and steep, rocky terrain Thursday in a last major effort to find him, but turned up nothing.

On Friday, members of the Rogue River Hotshots firefighting crew gathered up plastic ribbons marking reference points in the search and looked into a few rocky crannies where the boy might have hidden. Two dog teams searched for scents of the boy and a helicopter flew over the area.

The two plastic-coated canvas tents erected in the parking lot of the Cleetwood Cove trailhead as shelter for the search management team were struck. And food, tables, heaters and other equipment were hauled away in pickup trucks.

Rubber rafts used to search the shoreline of the lake were deflated and hauled up Cleetwood Cove trail.

Local park personnel will continue looking as time permits until winter weather closes in, said search spokesman Rudy Evenson.

“We didn’t have much hope, I think, after the day it snowed (Monday),” said Evenson. “But he could have found someplace to hide. We wanted to try everything that we could.”