Guy Mansfield, operations section chief for Saturday’s search for Jacob Gray, briefs a ground team Saturday morning. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Teams to return to Sol Duc River in search for Jacob Gray

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Officials plan to more thoroughly search three areas of the Sol Duc River in mid-August after a large-scale search Saturday yielded possible clues in the disappearance of Jacob Gray, who was last seen April 5.

Clallam County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Lyman Moores, who headed the search effort, said that nothing found Saturday provides answers for what happened to the 22-year-old from Bellevue whose bicycle and camping gear were found in the brush about 6.5 miles up Sol Duc Hot Springs Road on April 6, but there’s more work to be done.

“We did not find anything, but there are several clues,” he said Sunday. “I was hoping we could find something, but we were able to clear a lot of areas, so we know there’s nothing there.”

Three cadaver dogs’ behavior changed in three areas of the river, one of which was a logjam that couldn’t be thoroughly searched Saturday.

“The [swift-water rescue] team could not get into the logjam,” Moores said. “They think we need to go back and examine further.”

He said the river should be even lower when crews return in mid-August.

The plan is to send about three cadaver dog teams and ground crews to the three locations sometime in the second or third week of August.

The next search won’t be the same scale as Saturday’s, in which some 106 people from across Western Washington volunteered, but it will be more focused, Moores said.

Crews documented about 20 items that were found during the daylong search, though nothing was directly linked to Gray, Moores said.

He said a number of bones found in different locations were determined by a University of Washington anthropologist to be animal bones.

He said several articles of clothing were found, including sweatpants, a bandana, shorts and socks.

He said crews are still checking to see whether the shorts might have belonged to Gray, since they would have fit him, though Moores doesn’t believe they belonged to Gray.

Gray disappeared in April and likely wouldn’t have worn shorts, he said.

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and Olympic National Park were joined by teams from Snohomish, Kitsap, Pierce, Mason and Jefferson counties; volunteers from the Clallam Bay and Olympic corrections centers’ Inmate Recovery Team; Olympic Mountain Rescue; Northwest Search Dogs; Olympic Project/Ridgewalkers Unlimited; and a local ATV club.

The river was split into eight zones, and canine teams were sent to cover both sides of the river.

Ground crews also covered the river on both sides and a swift-water team focused on areas that a body or debris would have likely ended up, Moores said.

Moores, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 29 years, and many others who helped with the search said they had never participated in any search that was the same scale as Saturday’s search.

“It’s going to help for putting a little closure to this … I think it was some peace of mind that we were able to search the river with such detail,” Moores said.

Gray’s family said they couldn’t find the words to express their gratitude for those who helped with the search and extended a “special thanks” to Moores for “superbly orchestrating the undertaking,” the Find Jacob Gray Facebook page posted Sunday.

“It was evident by how flawlessly this very large operation was executed — even with counties and volunteers joining late in the process — that Sgt. Moores’ team spent days of preparation and planning,” the family said. “We are deeply touched and humbled by [Saturday’s] massive response, and the professionalism, skill and kindness of everyone who was involved. There aren’t words to express our gratitude.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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