Shutdown Hampers Park Search for Missing Doctor

Wednesday, 02 Oct 2013 03:08 PM

By Andrea Billups

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The search for an Idaho doctor missing at the Craters of the Moon National Monument since last week has been hampered by the government shutdown.

As of Tuesday, the search for Dr. Jo Elliott-Blakeslee, 63, was made more challenging after the national park's 16 employees were furloughed, CBS News reported.

Ten employees received special federal exemption Wednesday morning to resume work, allowing them to continue to look for the missing woman, reported.

"The probability of finding her alive has diminished, but we are committed to continuing the search until we find Dr. Jo and bring closure to her family, friends and all those who have been involved in this search," Dan Buckley, park superintendent, told the TV station.

Ted Stout, chief of interpretation and education at the park, said workers would resume a search for the physician,  who was last seen Sept. 19 after she and hiking partner Amy Linkert, 69, set off on a short hike, leaving their cell phones, purses, and dogs in their vehicle.

The two were not reported missing until Sept. 23, when Elliot-Blakeslee did not show up to work at the Snake River Correctional Institute.

Linkert was found dead on Sept. 25, likely from exposure, officials said.

Weather near the central Idaho town of Arco had already made searching tough when the shutdown was announced, park officials said.

By law, federal workers aren't allowed to volunteer for hours during a shutdown because funding has not been allocated by the government for their work, reported.

Family members are asking hikers with backcountry experience to join them in the search. The relatives acknowledged the slim chances of the doctor being found alive, noting the difficult terrain and unpredictable weather of the area. But they remained hopeful of locating her.

"Either way, we are committed to bringing her home and are actively recruiting volunteers with backcountry experience to keep the search going," the family said in a statement released Monday. "But we will not chance injury or loss of searchers. In that vein, at a minimum, those interested in participating should be able to hike 10 to 12 miles and climb 1,000 feet at a time in treacherous terrain."

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