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Search for missing hiker scaled back Sunday

The search for the missing hiker at Craters of the Moon National Monument was scaled back Sunday due to weather.

Search and rescue crews have been searching for Dr. Jodean Elliott-Blakeslee for six days with the hope that she may still be alive, but Sunday the incident management team decided she is likely dead.

Twenty searchers headed out on Craters of the Moon’s rough terrain Sunday, whereas 70 people helped search Saturday. Wind gusts up to 65 mph also kept helicopters grounded and search dogs limited.

Lori Iverson with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said Sunday’s harsh weather would put the search and rescue teams at risk.

“Given we’ve had a range of conditions, everything from snow to rain to high wind, it really decreases the likelihood that she may still be alive,” said Iverson.

Iverson said the decision was made collectively by family, and search and rescue personnel.

“That’s a difficult thing to face, it’s difficult for searchers and it’s certainly difficult for family.”

While it is assumed Blakeslee is no longer alive, the search has not been terminated. Searchers are still trying to cover areas that haven’t been checked, with the help of GPS mapping.

“Each group that goes out, whether it’s a dog team or a ground crew, are given a GPS unit to take out,” said Iverson.

Searchers carry the GPS units to eliminate covering areas already searched.

“It also marks clues that have been found,” said Iverson. “Any footprints, any flagging, any item that people find on the ground.”

The caves within Craters of the Moon have proven difficult for searchers. Gerald Dillman, with the caving organization Silver Sage Grotto, has been making his way through deep, and vast caves and crevices.

“It’s not just above ground that’s complicated and you can get turned around in, it’s below ground as well,” said Dillman.

He says the lava rock has made the search extremely difficult.

“I went through a whole set of knee pads yesterday alone,” said Dillman. “I wore a set of gloves, it wore the fingertips out of my gloves. It’s just very sharp, it’s very unforgiving.”

The search for Jo Elliott-Blakeslee and Amy Linkert began Tuesday. Linkert’s body was found Wednsday, and misidentified as Blakeslee.

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