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Teams plan to resume search Saturday for 2 missing snowboarders near Mount Baker

Search resumes for lost snowboarders near Mt. Baker Ski Area

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Jilk and Joe Amancio, talk Friday, Nov. 17, about the search for Amancio's son, Jake Amancio, 22, and Drew Lenz, 20, both of Bellingham, after they didn’t return from snowboarding in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie
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Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Jilk and Joe Amancio, talk Friday, Nov. 17, about the search for Amancio's son, Jake Amancio, 22, and Drew Lenz, 20, both of Bellingham, after they didn’t return from snowboarding in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie

Teams plan to search again Saturday for a pair of snowboarders missing for nearly a week in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

“They haven’t found any signs at this time. They plan to search again tomorrow (Saturday),” Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said Friday afternoon.

Whatcom Search and Rescue Council tweeted from the scene shortly after dawn Friday.

“Beginning today’s search operation at Mount Baker. Three teams in active search, as conditions allow,” the tweet said.

I’ve always told my son that what he should do is to try to enjoy life as much as possible.

Joe Amancio, father of missing snowboarder

Jake Amancio, 22, and Drew Lenz, 20, both of Bellingham, were reported overdue by a roommate Sunday afternoon when they didn’t return from a planned day of snowboarding in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. A search began Monday morning.

Sheriff’s officials and other teams, including the Border Patrol and several volunteer organizations, suspended the search Wednesday night amid concerns for avalanche danger after several days of heavy snow. They returned Friday during a break in the weather, Undersheriff Jeff Parks said.

“They just got their gear on. The weather’s starting to cooperate,” Joe Amancio of San Diego, Jake’s father, said Friday morning. He said teams staged at the Heather Meadows upper parking lot and focused their search on nearby Blueberry Ridge.

“That’s a high probability of where the boys may be,” Joe Amancio said in a phone call from the scene Friday morning. He said officials told him an electronic GPS ping was received from that area Sunday.

He said both his son and Lenz carried cellphones and GPS locators, along with avalanche safety equipment, whenever they went into the wilderness.

1117 wsco search
Search and rescue teams assess the safety of hillsides near Heather Meadows on Friday morning, Nov. 17. Whatcom Search and Rescue Council Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

“I’m hanging in there,” Joe Amancio said. “The mood is hopeful. That hasn’t changed from day 1.”

He said friends and family with backcountry experience searched Thursday in a safer area near Swift Creek above Baker Lake. But now the focus has turned to Heather Meadows, where the men left their vehicle.

So far, no trace of the two has been found.

Joe Amancio said he’s holding out hope the boys either dug a snow cave in whiteout conditions or were buried in an avalanche and created a survivable space under the snow to await rescue.

“I’m hoping that’s what’s going on,” he said. “I just hope they’re warm. They were doing something that they loved to do. I’ve always told my son that what he should do is to try to enjoy life as much as possible.”

A gofundme campaign for private search-related expenses had raised $16,880 of its $25,000 goal by Friday evening.

Joe Amancio thanked those who searched and distributed fliers over the past several days. He also praised the staff at Mt. Baker Ski Area, for its emotional and logistical support.

But he said there’s not much to do now except wait.

“We’re staying strong, trying to remain hopeful,” he said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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