A Portland man who went missing Tuesday in the Blue Mountains east of Pendleton turned up safe more than 48 hours later at a home near Pilot Rock.
Jeffrey Ryan Kelsay, 30, was wet and hungry when search and rescue workers reached him, the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office reported, but was not harmed.
Kelsay was headed to Baker City, according to the sheriff’s office, when his car apparently ran out of gas on Interstate 84 at milepost 235 near Emigrant Springs State Park. An Oregon Department of Transportation employee saw Kelsay at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Kelsay contacted his father about an hour later and told him he was walking toward Pendleton.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Dwight Johnson, county search and rescue supervisor, said Oregon State Police searched for Kelsay before reporting him missing about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Johnson said he conducted a “hasty” search of the area for about four-and-half hours, then he and the team kicked it into higher gear Wednesday at sunrise.
Trackers were on his trail along Interstate 84 about a mile-and-half eastbound of his car, Johnson said, but Kelsay then veered into the woods. Local farmer Kent Madison took to the air in his helicopter to help, and searched for about three hours. Spotting a missing person from the air over forest, Johnson said, is difficult at best.
Johnson said he grew concerned as the search went on. He hiked the area Kelsay went through, and while it is not the toughest terrain in the county, it is a forest with rock bluffs and steep slopes. The weather also was taking a turn Thursday, he said, with snow possible as low as 4,000 feet.
Johnson said he and the team were making plans Thursday night for how to use search and rescue resources coming from Malheur County, when dispatch took a call at 10:41 from a man who said Kelsay was on his front porch.
The location was about eight miles as the crow flies from the last sighting of Kelsay, Johnson said. The homeowner brought Kelsay in, gave him a jacket and some warm food. The rescue team arrived around midnight and gave Kelsay a bottle of water and a spare lunch, which Johnson said he devoured.
Johnson said Kelsay was tired, cold and wet and difficult to understand. He could not provide a complete account about what happened, though he stated he never slept, had waded though a creek and walked though two nights.
He also had not suffered any apparent injuries, Johnson said, in spite of a lack of rugged clothes and wearing something like “deck shoes.”
The sheriff’s office reported 22 search and rescue personnel worked approximately 278 hours attempting to find Kelsay. The team brought him to the Red Lion Hotel, Pendleton, where his family had waited since Wednesday. They had a family reunion there around 1 a.m.
“That was really nice,” Johnson said. “That made it worth while.”
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