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Search For Missing Idaho Hiker Turns To Drones, Crowdsourcing

National Park Service
A pair of searchers works across a lava field at Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco, Idaho.

A search effort for a missing hiker at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho is turning to drone technology for help.

The Park Service hopes to take high-resolution aerial photos and post them online for the public to look through.

It's been more than three weeks now without success in the search for 63-year-old Jodean Elliott-Blakeslee. Her hiking partner, Amy Linkert, was found dead a few days after they went missing.

Craters of the Moon Superintendent Dan Buckley says search and rescue teams are now reaching the limits of what they can do on the jagged lava fields. He's working with the Department of Defense and FEMA in hopes of sending out a drone mounted with a camera.

“Once we get the images, then we would post them on a public site, where somebody at their kitchen table could browse through the photographs," says Buckley. "And if they happen to see something, that might be that clue that we're looking for. So it's a way for anyone to participate in the search.”

Buckley says aerial photographs have been used to find climbers at Denali National Park in Alaska – though he says this may be the first time an unmanned drone is used.

Although the partial government shutdown closed Craters of the Moon, 13 Park Service staff stayed on to help with the search. Dozens of citizen volunteers from Idaho and surrounding states have also joined the effort.

Blakeslee -- known as Dr. Jo -- resides in the Boise area. She works as a doctor at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Facility.

On the Web:

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