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RESCUERS FIND MISSING MUSHROOM PICKERS

Rescuers lift a mushroom picker from a bus into a waiting ambulance. ().
Rescuers lift a mushroom picker from a bus into a waiting ambulance. ().

Three mushroom pickers from Crescent City were rescued Wednesday after spending two nights and three days lost in the forest in the Emily Creek drainage area near Snaketooth Road.

Seng Sydathong contacted the Curry County Sheriffs Office at 2:40 a.m. Jan. 22 to report missing his aunt, Daeng Sydathong, 46; his uncle, Lang Sydathong, 68; and his cousin Corey Sydathong, 18.

Seng said the trio left their home at 8 a.m. Monday and were expected to return by 3 p.m.

When Seng and other family members went to search for the missing relatives, they found their pickup truck unattended on Snaketooth Road.

After an unsuccessful search, family members gave up and called for help.

Sixteen volunteers from Curry County Search and Rescue, with help from Curry County Sheriffs Deputy Steve Carpenter searched from dawn Tuesday until 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Because of the wet and snowy conditions, the trios lack of adequate outdoor equipment and the aunts diabetic condition, the Curry County volunteers called for assistance from other counties.

Thirty-nine members of Search and Rescue teams from Coos, Douglas, Lane, Jackson and Josephine counties, including 10 dog teams, joined the search.

A dog team is one dog, trained to track any human scent, with two handlers.

In addition, five persons from the U.S. Forest Service helped with the search and the Red Cross provided additional food, water, emergency shelter and other supplies.

George Clatterbaum from the Oregon Emergency Management office in Salem was also involved, and Rick Green, pastor of the Brookings Nazarene Church, traveled to the base camp to work with family members.

Curry County Search and Rescue team coordinator Dan Borge and volunteer Fred Birum said there were five or six family members helping the first day and by the second day, 12 to 15 family members were involved in the search, with some coming from as far away as Sacramento.

Birum said the family members cooperated quite well. They understood the importance of staying away from the dog teams.

They were very understanding, Borge added.

The volunteers said a flyer was prepared last year explaining how to work safely in the woods, which is presented to all pickers when they obtain a permit.

But a large percentage of the people who go out picking do not get a permit, Borge said.

And most of the Asians do not speak or read English, Birum added.

Both men are hoping the Sydathong family will meet with search and rescue personnel in the future and help get the information out to the Asian community.

When the missing pickers were found, The older ones were in pretty bad shape, the men said.

The rescuers were advised by a Cal-Ore Life Flight emergency medical technician that it would be better to place them on backboards to transport them to a waiting ambulance.

The rescuers said the missing pickers had severe to critical hypothermia when found and the older man had taken a nose dive down a 60-to-70 foot embankment.

Searchers were quite concerned about the diabetic woman, however she had been carrying the required medication with her.

She had bruises on her wrists and her thigh and right leg, Borge said.

But they stayed together, and that was good, he added, indicating that often people get separated when lost in the forest.

They were all traumatized and suffered extreme exposure, he said.

After talking to the Sydathongs, searchers discovered that, rather than following the creek bed, as most lost hikers do, they had been walking in circles a long way away from the road where they entered the forest.

They told their nephew that seeing the search plane provided by Cal-Ore caused them to turn and walk back toward the road where they were found.

The search area covered about 5,700 acres.

The mushroom pickers were transported by Cal-Ore to Sutter Coast Hospital where they were treated and released.

When asked about the cost of such an extensive operation, the searchers said the federal government will pick up the tab because the search was on federal land.

However, all of the search and rescue team members are volunteers, and those who are employed lost two days work.

Borge said his employer, Cozy Wood Heating Center Inc., is very understanding about his volunteer search and rescue time.

These men and women not only donate the time spent during searches, when they put themselves at risk, they also attend five-day training sessions on a regular basis.

On this search, a handler for one of the dog teams received minor injuries and lost a GPS when she slid down a 100-foot embankment.

Other members of the Curry County team who participated in the search included, Dar and Connie Rasmussen, Joe Martin, Don Mazza, J.R. Rose, Mike King, Laurie Calef, Tom Smith, Bradey Dewey, Susan Brady, Reggie Dewar, Suzanne Ector, and Norm and Jean Carlson.

These volunteers all wear beepers and are ready to respond to any call, at any hours of the day or night. Those who have beepers turned off will receive a call from Dar Rasmussen.

Shes good at dragging us out, Borge said.

Both men said they enjoyed the volunteer work. We do it so others may live, Borge said.

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