Hunter, searching father found safe in Jefferson County

By Arwyn Rice and Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — A hunter who was missing overnight was found safe Tuesday in West Jefferson County, and her father, who also went missing during the search, was found Wednesday afternoon, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

About 20 searchers had shifted their search for Amy Merritt, 21, of Arlington and began searching for Kevin Merritt, 47, also of Arlington, who had been searching for his daughter ahead of the Jefferson County Search and Rescue teams.

The elder Merritt was believed to have been unaware that his daughter had been found, said Joe Nole, chief criminal deputy for the Sheriff’s Office.

Amy Merritt was reported missing Monday at about 8:20 p.m. after she did not return from what was expected to be a three-hour elk hunt

Her plans were to travel down a drainage between two Olympic National Forest roads and meet her mother at about 10 a.m.

But she sent a cellphone text message to her mother to let her know she would be late, Nole said.

When Merritt did not show up by 8 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office was notified.

She was not believed to have been equipped for an overnight stay in the woods.

Searchers from Jefferson County Search and Rescue, the Sheriff’s Office, the Coast Guard, the Hoh Nation and the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife looked for her.

Kevin Merritt joined the search and began following his daughter’s tracks ahead of the search teams, Nole said.

“We did find him,” Nole said Wednesday afternoon of the elder Merritt.

“He was located right around 12:30 [p.m.] on the Queets River.”

Amy Merritt was found at 6 p.m. Tuesday by an MH-60 helicopter crew from Air Station Astoria, Ore., on a Queets River sand bar about 13 miles from where she began her hunting trip and about 9 miles from Yahoo Lake, Nole said.

She was flown to Forks to be reunited with her mother.

Nole said Amy Merritt had traveled in the opposite direction of the area where she was supposed to meet her mother, he said.

He did not know why she went in that direction.

When searchers attempted to contact Kevin Merritt, he did not respond, Nole said.

The elder Merritt went missing before the Coast Guard found Amy Merritt, Nole said.

The crew of the Coast Guard helicopter said Kevin Merritt was well-equipped for the search.

Searchers believe Kevin Merritt’s radio batteries died, Nole said.



Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.



Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rob.ollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 07. 2012 6:12PM
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