Search continues for Boy Scout missing for days in rugged country in North Carolina park

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MCGRADY, N.C. (AP) – Warmer weather raised rescuers’ hopes Monday as they searched for a third day for a 12-year-old Boy Scout who disappeared while camping with his troop in the rugged mountains of western North Carolina.

Michael Auberry vanished in the heavily wooded terrain after lunch Saturday with the other Scouts and troop leaders. Searchers found his mess kit late Saturday within a mile of the camp site, but no other sign of him, authorities said.

Temperatures fell to the 20s before dawn Monday, but sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s prevailed during the day. Overnight temperatures were expected to be milder, with lows in the 40s, but there was a chance of rain Tuesday.

“The temperatures definitely play a factor. It has been very cold at night, but this young man was very well dressed. He had a fleece jacket on and another jacket,” National Park Service spokeswoman Tina White said. “We’ve had people who have been out a week or longer and survived.”

About 70 people aided by dogs and a helicopter searched the area’s logging roads and trails and scoured off-road regions. Searchers planned to stick to the trails at night to avoid losing anyone else.

Park rangers worked with the boy’s family to learn about Michael’s wilderness skills and how he might react to the situation, White said.

A missing persons alert notifying area law enforcement had also been issued as a precaution in case the boy had left the area being searched, White said, noting it was possible the boy could make it to a nearby road.

Few hikers are on the trails this time of year, she said.

The boy had stayed behind with an adult leader Saturday morning while the rest of the troop went for a hike “because apparently he wanted to sleep in,” said David Bauer, a ranger with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Michael was there when the troop returned for lunch, but the group of about 10 Scouts and their three adult leaders soon noticed he was missing, Bauer said.

Authorities said the boy probably wandered into the woods to explore.

“We’re hopeful he was able to find shelter. There are a number of rock crevasses, and he could have covered himself up with leaves,” said Mike Lambert, a ranger with North Carolina State Parks.

Michael, a Scout for about a year, likes camping but doesn’t like the cold, his father, Kent Auberry of Greensboro, told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Bauer said he was not aware of Michael having any arguments or problems with the troop members or his family.

“We’re doing our best to provide moral support to the family, to the leaders of the troop,” said John Meeks, Scout executive of the Greensboro-based Old North State Council, which governs the troop and others in the region. “They’re asking for prayers.”

Meeks said the troops’ leaders were highly qualified. He said other Scouts have left the area and returned home, but adults from the troop were on the scene.