IM this article to a friend!

February 10, 2004

Hypothermia killed hiker, medical exam finds

From: Oregonian - Portland,OR,USA - Feb 10, 2004

Richard Melton, 26, was wearing sweat clothes when he wandered off a snowy trail at Bagby Hot Springs


A Monmouth man who wandered off the trail Friday night at Bagby Hot Springs died of hypothermia, the state medical examiner's office ruled Monday.

The body of Richard Thomas Melton, 26, was found Saturday evening after search and rescue crews spent much of the day scouring a trail area near the hot springs. Melton was deaf and sight-impaired.

According to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Melton was wearing sweat pants, a T-shirt and a hooded sweat shirt when he hiked out of an area with 2 feet of snow on the ground and temperatures below 35 degrees.

"We were scrambling to get people out as fast as we could," said Angela Brandenburg, a sheriff's spokeswoman. Searchers were concerned because of Melton's disabilities and what he was wearing, she said.

Sheriff's officials confirmed that Melton was missing about 3:30 a.m. Saturday, Brandenburg said. A companion, Luana Pollock, 25, of Silverton alerted a passing motorist about 2 a.m. that she had lost sight of Melton as they hiked out from the hot springs.

After a preliminary drive-by search of the area and confirmation by Monmouth police that Melton had not returned home, the department launched its highest level of search effort about 6:45 a.m., Brandenburg said.

Officials began alerting volunteers for help, and a more thorough search began about 10 a.m.

Georges Kleinbaum, search and rescue coordinator for Oregon Emergency Management, said the first step in a search usually is information gathering.

"You can't just send searchers into the woods," Kleinbaum said. "A search is extremely organized. . . . It just takes time."

Melton's aunt, Louise Melton-Breen of Eugene, said the family appreciates everyone's efforts.

"We just feel like both the sheriff's department and search and rescue did everything they could," she said. "We are not looking to place blame on anyone. It is just a tragic accident."

A public service for Melton will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Monmouth Christian Church.

The family is requesting donations be made to Pacific Northwest Search & Rescue, Attention: Joan Wettlaufer, P.O. Box 1263, Oregon City, OR 97045.

Emily Tsao: 503-294-5928;

©2004 All Rights Reserved.