SCSO

KPTV file photo.

SKAMANIA COUNTY, WA (KPTV) – Search and rescue crews found a missing Vancouver woman Tuesday afternoon.

Jung C. VanAtta, 74, was reported lost Saturday after she went mushroom picking with a friend near the 500 block of Beacon Highlands Road in Skamania.

At some point, the two split up and VanAtta never returned, spending the next three days in the cold and lost in an area she didn’t know.

“I kept thinking my mom, she’s in the elements, she’s scared, she’s cold,” said daughter Sue Wong.

The search continued Sunday with several ground teams, dog teams, three drones, and a helicopter, law enforcement said. Deputies said a reverse 911 alert was also issued to area homeowners.

Search crews mapped out the area, but on the ground found quickly it was not going to be easy. They were up against tough terrain and thick brush, which made it hard to see.

“They could walk right by an object and unless they stepped on it, they wouldn’t see it,” said Detective Jeremy Schultz with the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office.

VanAtta’s family could only stand by, wait, and pray.

“You look, you look, you look, you look, I’m going to see her, going to see her, going to see her. And then it gets dark, and you’re like, I have to leave her. One more night. Is she going to be OK?” said daughter-in-law Karin Osgood.

And finally, on Tuesday afternoon, they found out she was.

VanAtta was found just after 3:30 p.m. in the Woodard Creek Drainage, an area of concentration for search and rescue personnel over the last two days, the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office says.

Deputies say she was found far off any main trails about a mile from where she was last seen on Saturday.

Clues, including a bag of mushrooms and a footprint, helped lead searchers in the right direction.

“A faint cry for help was all that was heard as they were investigating something else that they thought might have been her,” Schultz said.  

The sheriff’s office says VanAtta appeared weak but uninjured and was found by members of the 304th Pararescue unit out of Portland and members of the Volcano Rescue Team.  

Deputies aren’t sure yet how or why VanAtta got lost but said she did not have a cellphone or overnight gear.

She was taken to the hospital as a precaution, but her family says she’s already made it this far.

“It sounds like she’s just got a cut on her head and a bruised rib. She’s got some scratches. But she has such an indomitable spirit,” said Wong.

And with good reason. She was found safe – and on her 75th birthday. The Skamania sheriff had a cupcake waiting. 

It’s an ending certainly worth celebrating.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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