UPDATE: Daylong search finds no trace of missing Vancouver hiker

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 
photoMaureen Kelly

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— AMBOY — A daylong search in the dense woods of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on Saturday failed to turn up any trace of a 19-year-old Vancouver woman who left her campground on Sunday, June 9, and never returned.

The search for Maureen Kelly was called off about 6 p.m. Saturday after about 75 volunteers from 17 search and rescue teams combed a four square mile search area in rugged terrain near Canyon Creek. Communications were coordinated by the Communications Unit from Yacolt Fire District 13.

“We have utilized very professional search and rescue personnel during these operations,” said Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox. “They are very well trained and we rely heavily on their expertise to search very difficult terrains in various weather conditions. For us to not be able to locate Ms. Kelly is very frustrating to everyone involved,” Cox said.

One searcher received an ankle injury, and one of the search K-9’s split one of its paws.

“We are very fortunate that we did not receive any more injuries today, based upon the terrain we asked our search personnel to work in,” Cox said. The area was rough and steep with some areas covered in thick underbrush and wet moss, he said.

Maureen Kelly was last seen about 5 p.m. on June 9 when she left the Canyon Creek Campground on a “spiritual quest.” She left on foot and naked, wearing only a fanny pack containing a compass and a knife.

A friend reported Kelly missing just after midnight Monday. Search crews looked for the woman Monday and Tuesday before authorities suspended the search at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

At about 8 a.m. Saturday, the search resumed with teams from Oregon and Washington state.

“We’re assuming she’s up there and moving around,” Cox said in the early hours of the search.

The efforts included ground searches, including some K-9 teams, and vehicle patrols along forest roads, Cox said.

Police determined Kelly crossed Canyon Creek and headed north toward a forest service road. They don’t know where she went from there, Cox said.

Since Kelly had few things with her when she left the campground, she’s not likely to leave behind many clues, Cox said. And since she was barefoot, her footprints aren’t as heavy as they would be with shoes, he said.

“It’s gonna be an issue of looking for a needle in a haystack,” Cox said.

Even though the official ground search was halted earlier this week, Cox said people have continued to look for Kelly.

Deputies will routinely continue to patrol the area and detectives will continue to investigate any tips or leads that may develop, Cox said.

“As credible information is obtained in the coming weeks, it will be evaluated and options discussed at that point,” he said. The public is encouraged to call the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office if they have any information related to Kelly’s whereabouts. The phone number is 509-427-9490.

In addition, Cox said Kelly’s friends and family members have been looking for the woman and have created a Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/FindAnuKelly.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.