Full-scale search ends for Kent Island man missing in Wyoming Spot checks planned for David Crouch

left camp a week ago

September 08, 1997|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

A full-scale search for a Stevensville man missing in the Wyoming wilderness for a week ended yesterday, though periodic spot searches are planned this week, authorities said.

David M. Crouch, 27, never returned from what was supposed to be a two-hour fishing trip to Island Lake, near his campsite in the Bridger Wilderness of the Wind River Mountain Range, a week ago yesterday. The mountains are 10,500 feet above sea level, and Crouch did not have survival gear with him, authorities said.

A helicopter, nine people and four dogs searched the remote mountainous area near Island and Lower Jean lakes about 25 miles northeast of Pinedale yesterday, said Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland.

"I'm not prepared to say he's dead, but it's pretty bleak," Ruland said by phone yesterday.

"I told the family that we can't search forever," he said. "And because we aren't getting any new information, we have to scale back. They said they understood."

Members of the Crouch family declined to comment.

Crouch, a Kent Island native, manages a Bike Doctor store in Stevensville, where he lives with his wife, Donna. She was expected in Pinedale yesterday, Ruland said.

According to the sheriff, on the morning of Aug. 31, Crouch -- wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt -- left the campsite for a fishing trip to Island Lake about 1 1/2 miles away. He carried only his fishing rod, leaving his survival equipment at the campsite, Ruland said.

It was his first wilderness camping trip.

Crouch was expecting to fish for two hours and find his way back to camp for lunch, but when he didn't return by late afternoon, camp members began searching, Ruland said.

In Queen Anne's County, neighbors were daunted that the search had gone on for a week without success. Concern in the Kent Island community is particularly strong.

"The Crouch family is one of the well-known families on the island," said the Rev. Ken Valentine, pastor of Kent Island United Methodist Church, which David Crouch attended.

"We've had prayers for David all last week. It's very sad," Valentine said.

"I feel very bad for the whole family," said Dolores Timms, who lives near David Crouch. "It has to be a terrible feeling to have someone missing and not knowing if he is dead or alive. My heart goes out to the family."

Searchers yesterday searched the two lakes that are within a mile of one another, Ruland said.

During the week, the search covered a rugged area with steep ravines and granite boulder fields, he said. The search was complicated by snowfall Saturday, the sheriff said.

A team of 50 people searched on horseback, by foot and from two small airplanes. The Sheriff's Department also used two dog teams and rented a helicopter.

The search was the county's most extensive -- and the most expensive at about $12,000 -- in about two decades, Ruland said.

Minor searches for lost people have been conducted over the years, he said, but they rarely last more than three days. Usually, the missing person is found or finds his way back.

Crouch is the 16th person reported missing in the wilderness this year, Ruland said.

Pub Date: 9/08/97

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