ARCO, Idaho – The body of a 63-year-old hiker reported missing at the Craters of the Moon National Monument a month ago has been found, according to officials with the National Park Service.
Park rangers conducting a helicopter search of the lava fields near the Tree Molds Trails Tuesday evening spotted the body of Dr. Jo Elliott-Blakeslee. The Chief Ranger spotted Elliott-Blakeslee's from a chopper. Officials say her body was found about one mile from where searchers found the body of her hiking companion Amelia Linkert. They were reported missing on September 24.
Dan Buckley, Park Superintendent for the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, said they did not anticipate finding the bodies in such tough terrain.
"A lot of the searchers that have been here will tell you that it's probably the most difficult country there is to navigate, as far as just the sheer undulation of the landscape, lots of cracks and crevasses, sharp rock, loose rock," said Buckley. "We were fortunate that we didn't have any serious injuries to the ground searchers, and that we're thankful for."
Buckley said they are relieved, but saddened by the outcome.
“We hope that this will bring closure to her family, friends and all those who have been involved in the search. We join the family in thanking the searchers and local communities for the tremendous outpouring of support that we have received throughout this intense effort,” said Buckley.
Linkert died from exposure, dehydration, and hypothermia. A cause of death for Elliott-Blakeslee is still pending the investigation by the coroner and law enforcement personnel. Buckley expects Elliott-Blakeslee's cause of death will be similar to Linkert's.
Authorities with the Butte County Sheriff's Office and National Park Service have been working with dozens of volunteers to search for the women. Linkert's body was found on September 26, the day she would have turned 70.
The women were last seen at a campground in Arco on September 19. Their vehicle was found at the Tree Molds Trail head parking lot, a popular hiking area in Craters of the Moon. How and why they were separated, and what happened is not known.
"That will probably remain a mystery," said Buckley. "We'll never know probably exactly what happened."
Blakeslee worked as a physician for the Oregon Department of Corrections in Ontario, and Linkert was retired from the Meridian School District.