Search continues for man missing near Sol Duc River; trip began in Port Townsend

Chris Tucker ctucker@ptleader.com
Posted 4/14/17

Searchers with the National Park Service, Olympic Mountain Rescue and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office are looking for a 22-year-old Bellevue man who went missing in Olympic National Park near …

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Search continues for man missing near Sol Duc River; trip began in Port Townsend

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Searchers with the National Park Service, Olympic Mountain Rescue and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office are looking for a 22-year-old Bellevue man who went missing in Olympic National Park near Sol Duc River on April 6.

The search began late Thursday, April 6, for Jacob Gray. Gray’s bicycle and camping gear were found on the side of Sol Duc Road in the park.

Lee Snook, chief of interpretation and education for Olympic National Park, said Gray is from Santa Cruz, California. He had been attending school at Bellevue College in Bellevue, Washington. Most recently he had been staying with his grandmother, Wyoma Claire, in Port Townsend.

Gray, who is 5’11”, weighs 145 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes, left Claire’s home in Port Townsend on the evening of Wednesday, April 5, Snook said.

Gray’s aunt, Elise Stokes, of Bellevue, said that Gray had intended to bike across the U.S. to his brother’s place in Vermont.

Stokes said Gray is an athletic outdoors man who loves adventure, so the family didn’t worry about his trip at first. She said a ranger saw Gray’s gear on April 6. On Friday, April 7 the ranger noticed the gear was untouched and investigated. A Bible and list of family phone numbers was among the items. A day pack and water filtration tool was missing so it was unclear if he’d gone on a hike. Stokes said Gray left his cell phone at his grandmothers.

Stokes thought Gray may have slipped on a mossy rock in the river, then tried to grab onto a second rock downstream and then may have grabbed onto a fallen tree in the river and possibly climbed to shore.

Stokes posted photographs on her Facebook page that she said were from search and rescue personnel that show the scene.

“All disturbances that S&R found, they estimated to be about a week old, which fits into the timeline when Jacob disappeared,” Stokes wrote to The Leader.

“The two trackers feel, based on the evidence they found, that someone fell into the river at the spot where the skid mark and finger scratches were found and someone got out of the river by catching the fallen tree’s rootball and climbing up it to shore,” she wrote. Stokes said that several family members and two volunteers have done their own foot searches for Gray. She said the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office was also searching for him.

Law enforcement Rangers in the area of the bicycle searched the river bank near the Sol Duc River.

Park Rangers and Olympic Mountain Rescue have been searching both sides of the Sol Duc River corridor near mile post 6.3 where Gray’s gear was found. According to Google maps, that’s about halfway the distance from where Sol Duc Hot Springs Road intersects Highway 101 and where Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is located.

“We do have a search and rescue dog team that should be there shortly,” Snook said Thursday, April 13.

Snook said that footprints were possibly found on the other side of the river, but that they could have come from people who were just fishing or could have come from people who were looking for Gray.

Snook said the Park did not want assistance in searching for Gray because the added searchers could contaminate any legitimate evidence.

“We want to limit it to just the professional searchers that we’ve got out there,” Snook said.

Dangers to hikers in the area along the river include hypothermia, possible head injuries and drowning.

Snook described the Elwha River conditions as “high, fast and cold.”

Temperatures in nearby Port Angeles ranged from a low of 34 to a high of 54 between April 6 and April 13 according to the National Weather Service.

Information from other hikers and river user groups is valuable during searches. Anyone who may have seen Gray in recent days is requested to contact the park at 360-565-3115.

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