ARCO — Despite the government shutdown, the search continues for missing hiker Dr. Jodean “Jo” Elliott-Blakeslee at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.
A volunteer search is currently being organized by those with the Silver Sage Grotto National Speleological Society group to search the caves this weekend.
The physician was first reported missing on Sept. 24 when she did not show up for work. The body of the other individual who accompanied Elliott-Blakeslee on the hike, Amelia “Amy” Linkert, was found on Sept. 25 in a remote location of the National Park Service Unit. Officials believe dehydration and hypothermia likely led to her death. Both women are Boise residents.
“Our family is grateful to the Butte County Sheriff as he leads the coordination of the search efforts with Monument personnel,” said Teresa Hampton, a family member of Elliott-Blakeslee.
Hampton further indicated that park officials received permission to keep staff members on the search who would otherwise have been placed on mandatory leave without pay.
“We have rounded up enough other volunteers from the public for full-scale searches to resume,” Hampton said in a news release. “These individuals will be notified when they are needed. Please do not travel to the monument unless you receive a call to volunteer.”
Interested volunteers willing to explore the caves must supply their own helmet, three sources of lights, gloves, knee and elbow pads, besides food and water. These items are required as the caves are very sharp and dangerous, according to SSG Chairman Chris Anderson.
GPS and other communication devices are also welcome.
“If authorities haven't found Ms. Blakeslee by this weekend, the SSG is planning to head back out and continue the search,” Anderson said. “Given the fact that she hasn't been found by the helicopters, it is still believed she ended up below ground. CRMO officials don't have any searchers who are experienced, or equipped, to go into the many small and very difficult caves in the wilderness area.”
Elliott-Blakeslee is believed to have headed out from the Tree Molds trailhead for a short hike without food, water, or protective clothing on Sept. 19.
“After last weekend’s big effort to locate Dr. Jo, we had intended to scale back search operations given the environmental conditions we have been experiencing,” said CRMO Superintendent Dan Buckley. “The probability of finding her alive has diminished, but we are committed to continuing the search until we find Dr. Jo and bring closure to her family, friends and all those who have been involved in this search.”
In all, 19 workers are employed at Craters of the Moon. According to Buckley, the plan was to have all but three of those employees on furlough during the shutdown.
However, he said the park received permission to keep ten additional employees on to continue with the search that is now concentrated in an area of the park known as the Derelict Lava Flow.
“The ten people working the search are experienced rangers in top physical condition. The terrain in the park can be brutal,” said Ted Stout, the park’s chief of interpretation and public information officer for this search. “It, along with the adverse weather conditions we have been experiencing, has already taken a toll on searchers and search dogs.”
Interested volunteers are asked to contact Steven Frye at 208-721-1074
or Chris Anderson at 208-420-1662.
“The safety of these volunteers is paramount,” Hampton said. “We are thankful for the outpouring of support as we continue to search for Dr. Jo.”
Those who would like to donate to the Craters of the Moon Historical Association in the name of this search and rescue effort can do so by following the links provided on Facebook at facebook.com/SearchforDrJo .
For more general information on the search effort, dial (208) 527-5816.