I just can't even imagine the horror these families must be experiencing. Barring foul play, how does a boy just disappear so completely in the space between heartbeats?
Salt Lake Tribune: Few clues on Day 3 of search for Scout
Where’s Brennan? Mild weather keeps the family hopeful, but the lack of traces frustrates rescuers
EAST FORK OF THE BEAR RIVER—The search for 11-year-old Brennan Hawkins covered new ground Monday, moving onto mountain ridges surrounding the Boy Scout camp from which he disappeared and combing the river that winds through it.
But after the third full day of probing the high country here, 60 professionals and more than 600 volunteers found no trace of the Bountiful boy, who was last seen alive Friday evening at the East Fork of the Bear River Boy Scout Reservation.
Searchers and members of Brennan’s family remained optimistic, however, citing favorable elements and inspiring tales.
“We have every reason to believe Brennan is fine. We still have great hope and believe Brennan is still here,” said the boy’s father, Toby Hawkins.
Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds noted that water is plentiful, making thirst a nonissue, and the weather relatively mild.
“There are stories of kids his age being gone for 10 days before being found.... It isn’t out of the reason of possibility that he is still out there alive.”
The search for Brennan will resume today, with nobody talking about when it will end.
Still, Edmunds warned Monday that his crews were working on the premise they had an “unresponsive subject” and to find him, they likely would have to “walk right up on top of him.”
Veteran searchers remain haunted by two similar tragedies that have occurred in the western Uinta Mountains in the past 21 months.
Last August, 11-year-old Garrett Bardsley, of Utah County, disappeared from a Boy Scout outing near Mirror Lake, about 15 miles southwest of here. He has not been found and is presumed dead.
In September 2003, a mother and daughter became lost during a hike near Crystal Lake, not far from Mirror Lake. Their bodies were not found until the following June.
“Once again, we’ve had someone vanish into thin air,” Edmunds said.
But in the earlier incidents, cold weather was a major factor as was the steep and rocky terrain. It was likely the victims in both cases died within the first 24 hours of disappearing, Edmunds said.
With national news media and satellite trucks swarming the area, Edmunds worried that the Uinta Mountains, home to the largest federally designated wilderness area in Utah, were quickly gaining a bad reputation.
“It’s been a crazy three years,” he said. “Everybody wonders how you get lost. But I’m here to tell you, I’d get lost in a heartbeat out here. Without a GPS unit, all these mountains can begin to look the same.”
The sheriff said Monday’s searchers were trying to move beyond the 6 square miles around the camp that had previously been combed and onto the ridges and other surrounding areas. Also on Monday, recovery crews intensified their focus on the Bear River.
The river runs about 100 yards from where Brennan was last seen and workers believe he might have tried to cross it and been swept away.
Melting snow from the mountains has swollen the river and raised it over an adult’s head in some places.
On Monday, swift-water rescue crews from Summit, Davis and Weber counties probed the icy waters without success.
“When you get in the current, the water will do with you what it wants,” said Steve Petty, of Davis County Search and Rescue. “It can pin you against rocks and branches and the pressure is relentless.”
And the water is cold. “It’s 40 degrees today,” Petty said. “If we did not have [dry suit] protection, we’d lose our strength fast.”
Edmunds said the emphasis on the Bear River should not be interpreted as a sign his office believes Brennan is dead. But he acknowledged that if the boy did fall into the river, he would not have survived.
The sheriff’s office also has not ruled out a kidnapping, though there is no evidence of foul play. Investigators are conducting background checks on all adults who were in the camp on Friday or who have visited cabins in the surrounding area. The sheriff said there were about 1,500 people in the vicinity when Brennan disappeared.
“With the Bardsley disappearance, I didn’t believe there was a chance of foul play. He was up in the middle of the wilderness,” the sheriff said. “This is different. When you have so many people, it’s a little suspicious.”
Brennan’s sister, 19-year-old Mariah Hawkins, said the criminal investigation is fine, but she is not distracted by it.
“I’m confident he’s here somewhere,” she said.
Brennan arrived at the Boy Scout camp on Friday with the family of a friend. The family was participating in a weekend of camping and activities for varsity Boy Scouts. Brennan is not a varsity Scout but was allowed to scale the camp’s climbing wall.
According to Brennan’s family and investigators, Brennan and the friend climbed down the wall. The friend went to dinner at the main campsite and told Brennan to meet him there.
Brennan asked for an older boy’s help in removing his climbing gear. The older boy asked Brennan to wait while helping another camper.
When the older boy turned to help Brennan, he was gone and his climbing gear was lying on the ground. No one has seen him since.
Brennan was last seen wearing a long-sleeve blue T-shirt and black shorts.
An estimated 3,000 people participated in the search on Sunday, but most of them had to go back to work on Monday.
“If it was my kids, I’d be out here, and I hope others would join me,” said Jesse Buntjer, a 26-year-old father of three from South Jordan who took Monday off from his job to look for Brennan. “You’ve just got to keep hoping.”
Ron Whitehead, who took the day of his job at Hill Air Force Base to join the ranks of volunteers scouring the forested hills, said he had a bad feeling.
“I was up here last year searching for Garrett. That just eats at me,” said the career master sergeant, who does a lot of archery hunting in the Uintas.
Bountiful resident Jeff Waldron was searching Monday on his ATV.
“What I don’t understand is you have these high ridges on both sides. He must still be in this valley unless he was kidnapped.”
Camille Campbell, 23, drove up to the search site from her home in Erda, Tooele County.
“I saw people searching on the news and I just wanted to come up and help.”