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He came as a visitor, stepped out onto a Washington state trail alone and unprepared and vanished
Search suspended

September 20, 2017

Photo of Sergey Cherepov, 57, taken shortly before he went missing. CLICK TO ENLARGE (Photo: King County Sheriff's office)

MAP shows area where Mr. Cherepov went missing. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Chronicle staff

(KING COUNTY, WA.) -- At any given time in this country, this country alone, there are as many as 100,000 missing persons according to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). That was as of Sept. 2016.

Two years earlier, a Sept. 2014 USA Today news report pegged that number as 90,000 persons, on average, as missing in the USA at any given time, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, a national database for missing people.

Most of those reported missing are young people. Of the 692,944 people reported missing in 2010, 531,928 were under the age of 18, according to the NCIC and more women (355,243) than men (337,660) are reported missing by someone: family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, bosses.

Anyway you slice it, that is a lot of missing humanity. Sometimes the people on the missing list are never heard from again. They simply vanished one day and that was that.

To that long list of the missing, at least for today, one can add the name of Sergey Cherepov, 57, a Russian man who was in our area on business. That's his picture at upper right.

Search suspended

The King County Sheriff’s Office suspended a search on Tuesday for Mr. Cherepov who'd gone hiking with some friends to the Goldmeyer Hot Springs (a popular hiking destination) on Thursday of last week.

The hot springs are located deep into the backwoods in some pretty rugged terrain at 2,000 feet of elevation. Access to the trailhead is off Interstate 90 past North Bend.

This time of year that area can make its own weather. A sunny morning can turn into a deluge of cold, hard rain or sleet later in the day and into the night.

According to a sheriff's office statement, Mr. Cherepov, "Left the springs alone and headed back towards the parking area. When Sergey’s friends got to the parking area Sergey was nowhere to be found. The friends searched for him and called police Friday when they could not locate him."

According to the sheriff's office, when Cherepov left alone he had "No equipment, food, or water and was not dressed for cold temperatures."

The Goldmeyer Hot Springs website says, "The weather can change quickly in the Middle Fork Valley, please come prepared!"

It then gives a long list of things you should have with you when you hit that trail -- rain gear, warm layered clothing, proper hiking boots, flashlight, food ("it's a long journey!") says the website.

Mr. Cherepov also had a head injury from a recent fall and was wearing a bandage on his head.

The search

King County Search and Rescue volunteers have been searching the area since last Friday. The Sheriff’s Office said the search area is "extremely large, with dense forests and vegetation which have made it difficult to search."

Trails in the area have been searched but rescuers fear he "may have fallen" which would make it difficult to find him in the thick brush off the trails.

"Additionally, the weather has been a factor," says the sheriff's office statement.

So there is the reported scenario. A recently injured 57-year old man, from another country and with a bandage on his head, unfamiliar with the rugged terrain and having no food, water, flashlight, warm clothing, map or rain gear steps out onto a trail alone in late September starts walking and is now simply....gone.

The vanished: it matters where you go missing

Curiously the keepers of public lands do not keep track of the people who vanish there, even though they keep a good tally of the local bears and deer.

A story in March of this year in Outside magazine titled, "How 1600 people went missing from our public lands without a trace," noted this interesting fact: because no one keeps track of missing humans on public lands, "That leaves the only estimates to civilians and conspiracy theorists. Aficionados of the vanished believe that at least 1,600 people, and perhaps many times that number, remain missing on public lands under circumstances that defy easy explanation. "

"Numbers aside, it matters tremendously where you happen to disappear. If you vanish in a municipality, the local police department is likely to look for you. The police can obtain assistance from the county sheriff or, in other cases, state police or university law enforcement. If foul play is suspected, your state’s bureau of investigation can decide to get involved. Atop that is the FBI. With the exception of the sheriff, however, these organizations don’t tend to go rifling through the woods unless your case turns into a criminal one."

Which means in many cases it's up to the local sheriff's office to try and find you and all those agencies have limited resources.

Thus at some point, the search for that missing person has to stop.

As is the case now for a 57-year old man from Russia who has joined the ranks of the missing in America.



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