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February 8, 2004

Missing Monmouth hiker found dead

From:, OR - Feb 8, 2004

Associated Press

A deaf, sight-impared hiker from Monmouth was found dead Saturday near a trail to Bagby Hot Springs, Clackamas County sheriff's deputies said.

Richard Thomas Melton, 26, had been missing since Friday night when he and a friend argued and separated while returning from the springs 41 miles southeast of Estacada, sheriff's Sgt. Nick Watt said.

The friend walked to the trailhead parking lot, where she waited two to three hours before seeking help, he said. A witness last saw Melton on the trail about 9 p.m.

Melton's remains were found about 5 p.m. in a snow-covered area near the trailhead parking lot, police said.

Melton was wearing shorts, a T-shirt, a windbreaker and tennis shoes, had no food with him and did not have food with him. He was unfamiliar with the area.

Melton went to the springs with a friend, Luana Pollock, 25, of Silverton. They arrived about 6 p.m. and left the springs about two hours later, said Watt.

Pollock, who is deaf and cannot speak, flagged down a motorist shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday and wrote a note about Melton. The motorist called police,

By 10:30 a.m. Saturday two dozen search and rescue volunteers, snowmobilers and specially trained dogs scoured the area.

Oregon National Guard's 1042nd Medical Company dispatched three helicopters to sweep the area.

Police said Melton's hearing and sight impairments complicated searchers' work. They could not, for example, conduct a "sound sweep" using whistles and foghorns.

Melton's vision was impaired, according to his family, but with glasses, he was able to see well enough to drive. He communicated using sign language.

Melton and Pollock were longtime friends and former schoolmates at the Oregon School for the Deaf, according to Melton's family.

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