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Tuesday, March 28, 2000

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Timothy Stapp, left, spent a wet night outside but
walked out on his own this morning at the Wahiawa
Heights trailhead. Stapp had volunteered to search for
Robert LeFevre, who may have been lost on that trail.
Another volunteer, Gary Osborne, right, brought
breakfast for Stapp.

Lost searcher
returns, hiker
still missing

A volunteer looking for a
missing man is OK after a
night in the woods

By Jaymes K. Song


Tim Stapp -- exhausted, cold and drenched in the Wahiawa mountains while searching for a missing man -- tore a piece of bark off the tree he slept next to last night and wrote on paper: "Tim slept here. Went up trail."

Stapp, a volunteer who was searching for missing hiker Robert LeFevre, emerged from the mountains this morning after spending the night among the trees after losing his way and his group.

"I wanted to find the missing fella," Stapp said from his Wahiawa General Hospital bed, where he was taken for observation, while feasting on bacon, eggs and oatmeal. "I came down to volunteer and help find this guy."

LeFevre was last seen March 5 at Office Depot in Waimalu, where he worked, police said.

Yesterday, friends and family of the Salt Lake man, aided by other volunteers, continued to search the Wahiawa trail.

"Some of us made it out, some of us didn't," said Stapp's search partner, Gary Osborne of Kailua.

Stapp, a federal employee on assignment in Hawaii for 45 days, headed into the mountains with two other volunteers yesterday morning in search of 27-year-old LeFevre.

Stapp, who has very little hiking experience, was eventually separated from his two search partners.

"I ran out of daylight," he said. "And I was running out of gas."

The only items that Stapp had for the night were a liter of water, a small plastic bag of granola, a first-aid kit, an extra T-shirt and a plastic grocery bag.

So when darkness fell, he wrapped the plastic bag over his head, leaving a hole to breath through, and, using wet T-shirts as a blanket, nestled next to "a good tree" and went to sleep.

What kept him somewhat warm was the plastic bag over his head, something he learned while serving seven years in the Army.

"I was cold and wet," he said. "It rained three-quarters of the night."

At daybreak, Stapp hiked about an hour and a half and met fire and police rescuers at about 7:20 a.m., who were at the base of the trail.

"I wasn't worried for my life," he said. "As long as I was near a marked trail, I knew I was going to get out."

Stapp, 43, was in high spirits and in good condition this morning while talking with his search partner Osborne. He said he would take a shower when he got to his Turtle Bay condominium and "take it easy" for the day.

He added that he wouldn't be a part of any further searches for LeFevre, but hopes rescue crews will continue their efforts.

Fire Capt. Richard Soo said officials appreciate assistance from the public, but advises volunteers to be well prepared, including carrying a cellular phone and the necessary gear.

"If you're not familiar with the trails, we ask you not participate," Soo said. "But we do appreciate the help."

And Osborne said he doesn't plan on inviting Stapp to any hiking outings anytime soon.

"He won't let me come out in the woods with him anymore," Stapp joked.

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