Ex-Cape woman among 3,000 who sought lost Boy Scout

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A former Cape Girardeau resident was among those who searched for the 11-year-old Boy Scout found alive and in good condition Tuesday after spending four days lost in the Utah wilderness.

Joann Deevers Askins of Park City, Utah, and formerly of Cape Girardeau, was one of about 3,000 volunteers who searched for Brennan Hawkins. On Monday, Askins and a party of 21 other people searched an area near the spot in the Uinta Mountains where Brennan was later found.

The youngster from the Salt Lake City suburb of Bountiful was found just before noon near Lily Lake, about five miles from the camp where he was last seen Friday. He was reunited with his parents and their four other children and taken to a hospital to be checked.

Askins said she can understand how Brennan could have gotten turned around in the harsh terrain and that she might have gotten lost herself without the help of two global positioning devices carried by members of her search party. She said Brennan had to have crossed marshlands and some steep ridges to reach the area where he was found.

"When we searched over there, my thoughts and the thoughts of some other people were 'Why are we searching so far away, there's no way a little boy could have made it over these ridge tops,'" said Askins, a graduate of Notre Dame Regional High School and Southeast Missouri State University.

Kay Godfrey, a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts' Great Salt Lake Council, pronounced the boy's rescue a "modern-day miracle."

Brennan carried no food or water, and his family had said he did not have a good sense of direction. But Sheriff Dave Edmunds said the nights had been warm, with temperatures falling only into the 50s. The area is about 100 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

Brennan scarfed down granola bars and guzzled bottles of water offered by rescuers. Later, he asked to play a video game on a cell phone that belonged to a volunteer who helped in the search.

Askins decided to volunteer Monday because she has a 13-year-old son who has gone on Boy Scout trips. She said she kept putting herself in Brennan's mother's place. The volunteers were people like her who just wanted to help, she said.

"It was great to see so many people come out like that, and the family never gave up hope," she said.

Askins said hearing that Brennan had been found was wonderful.

"It was amazing, and I was as teary-eyed as anyone else," she said. "I had had my doubts. I thought that it might be a sad turnout, but it's not, and it's really amazing."

Clothing discoveries

During the search, rescuers had feared the boy had fallen into a river that was swollen by heavy snow melt. The East Fork of the Bear River is within 100 yards of the road where the boy was believed to have been walking. Deep-water rescue teams searched the river, while others combed the area around it. Askins said the boy's family members maintained that he was afraid of the water and would never have gone near the river.

On Monday, rescuers found three socks and a sandal in the river, but none belonged to Brennan. The boy's parents also sifted fruitlessly through enough clothing collected from the mountains to fill the bed of a pickup.

Also among the volunteer searchers was Kevin Bardsley, whose 12-year-old son, Garrett, vanished last August while camping at a nearby lake. He was never found despite a weeklong search.

"When we came off this mountain in the winter, my friends and I decided right then if anyone came missing we'd be there immediately," Bardsley said.

Askins said searchers were told to look for Garrett Bardsley or clues to his whereabouts as well.

It was not immediately clear how he survived or whether he tried to find his way back to camp. "He was in no mood to give us some details," the sheriff said. "He just wanted to eat and see his mom."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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