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Missing 75-year-old mushroom hunter found ‘weak but uninjured’ in Washington

The four-day search for a 75-year-old mushroom picker who disappeared in southern Washington ended on Tuesday when she was found alive, according to authorities.

The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office said Jung C. VanAtta, of Vancouver, Washington, is in stable condition and is being rescued from Woodard Creek Drainage, where searchers from the North Country EMS Volcano Rescue Team and the U.S. Air Force 304th Rescue Squadron discovered her around 3:30 p.m., The Columbian reported.

Sheriff Pat Bond said by email that VanAtta “appears weak but uninjured,” according to The Columbian, which reported that more information on the rescue will be released later.

VanAtta was reported lost around 3 p.m. Saturday by a friend, the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release on Monday. VanAtta had been hunting for mushrooms about 15 miles northwest of Stevenson with 87-year-old Donald Bergseng, also of Vancouver, deputies said.

The pair returned to their car around 10 a.m. Saturday, but VanAtta decided to head out again with plans to come back in an hour. She did not return, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“She had never picked in the area and was not familiar with the property,” deputies said Monday. “Friends and family searched the area, alerting our office later in the afternoon.”

Searchers on Monday discovered “a bag of freshly-picked mushrooms and a trash bag with a receipt in it, which they confirmed belonged to VanAtta,” KOIN reported on Tuesday.

“It’s huge in a search because you have your last point seen and then as you progress along looking and you’re not finding anything — suddenly you start finding clues,” Skamania County Sheriff Dave Brown said, according to KOIN. “It’s just a piece of the puzzle that kind of leads us in a direction — it’s going in a direction we sort of thought she would filter to so we’re going to hold out hope today that we have some success.”

Deputies launched a search on Saturday, which continued unsuccessfully until 2:45 a.m. on Sunday. Deputies said the search continued on Sunday with teams of dogs, aerial drones, ground teams and a helicopter.

Authorities said VanAtta did not have a phone with her, according to FOX 12, which described her as “a Korean woman who is 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighs 115 pounds and has ‘salt and pepper hair.’ She was described as a novice mushroom picker and was last seen wearing a purple coat with white trim.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.
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