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Missing 12-year-old scout found in Daggett County

By Steve Fidel and Alex Cabrero | Posted - Aug. 13, 2011 at 6:01 p.m.


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MANILA, Daggett County -- Boy Scout Jared Ropelato, missing near Daggett Lake since about noon Friday, was found safe Saturday morning.

"He was found approximately 8:40 a.m. A search group on ATVs found him down by the Long's Peak area," said Karen Peterson, public affairs officer for Daggett County.

You can't blame Ropelato's family if they just didn't want to let go of him.

"I'm happier than I've ever been, because I think I was as scared as I'd ever been," said Dawn Ropelato, Jared's mother. "He's fine. He fell in a river this morning and was wet, but he's still dirty."


When we went to scout camp last year, they taught us how to build a lean-to and how to stay warm.

–Jared Ropelato


The 12-year old boy was dirty because he did everything right last night.

Ropelato spent the night in a lean-to he built to shelter him from near-freezing temperatures. He also covered himself with dirt to help keep warm. After searchers found him Saturday morning, "He was taken down to our (Emergency Medical Services) command post and checked out with a clean bill of health," Peterson said.

Ropelato, who lives in Hooper, was camping with his Boy Scout troop near Spirit Lake in Daggett County when he got lost yesterday afternoon. He had gone back to a lake to get his fishing gear and lost his way. Once he realized he didn't know where he was, Ropelato stopped and built a shelter.

As night set in, he buried himself in dirt to keep warm, which he said he learned from being a Boy Scout.

"When we went to scout camp last year, they taught us how to build a lean-to and how to stay warm," said Ropelato.

His parents said all along he had the skills to rough it, but were still worried when he wasn't found Friday night.

Saturday morning, hundreds of volunteers went to Daggett County to look for him.


There is some rough terrain out there. But we had every grid square covered. It's amazing how many volunteers showed up here to help, and we thank them.

–Jerry Jorgensen


"As soon as we heard the he was missing, within a few minutes, everybody was calling us and asking what they could do to help," said Kevin Ropelato, who is Jared's older brother.

Volunteers were separated into 8-12 man search teams. Each team was responsible for searching in a 1-square mile grid. Overall, there were about 30 square miles to look through.

"There is some rough terrain out there," said Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen. "But we had every grid square covered. It's amazing how many volunteers showed up here to help, and we thank them."

Jorgensen said searchers with dogs and some of Jared's clothing to provide a scent were the first people out Saturday morning. Law enforcement officers and volunteers numbering about 200 followed on foot, horseback and ATVs.

His mother, Dawn Ropelato, speaking before Jared was found, said she recognized most of the searchers who came out Saturday morning, but she said there were many people arriving to help the family did not know. "It just comforts me so much to know that we have so much love and support."

Just before 9 a.m. word spread that Ropelato was found.


We had a feeling to stop there. We yelled out his name and he responded. We ran to him and got him and he was in good spirits and came back here.

–Nathan


The searcher who found Jared, who identified himself only as Nathan, was part of a search party from Idaho Falls on a family reunion trip. He said he and his group stopped at a lookout off a trail. "We had a feeling to stop there. We yelled out his name and he responded. We ran to him and got him and he was in good spirits and came back here," Nathan said. "I about fainted when he responded. It was amazing."

"I was just glad I could hear them, and they could hear me," said Ropelato.

After her son was found, the Scout's mom thanked all of the people who helped in the search. "They found him so fast because of everybody here," she said. "I think I'm happier than I've ever been because I was as scared as I think I'd ever been."

She said Jared's biggest scare came when he encountered a bull moose. He got cold during the night, but not too cold. He fell in a river Saturday morning, "But he's still dirty," she said.

"He did everything right last night," she said. "We said he was smart, and he's smart."

Asked if he would still be going camping after his overnight ordeal, Jared simply said "yeah."

Neighbors and friends posted signs, hung yellow ribbons and drew chalk art on the Ropelato's driveway to welcome Jared home.

"He's our brother. He's kind of like our brother and he's there for us a lot of times, so we've go to be there for him," said Emma Hodson, a neighbor to the Ropelato family.

Jared said he was surprised by the work his neighbors put in and that he feels loved.

----

Story written by Steve Fidel and Alex Cabrero with contributions from Sarah Dallof.

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Steve Fidel
    Alex Cabrero

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