Family gives thanks to community, church and search teams

by: MARK FRIESS - Bradley Nelson, 16, and Jackson Chandler, 17, discuss their 44 hours in the cold and rain with media on Monday. Two missing West Linn teens were found safe Monday afternoon after spending two full days in the woods east of Molalla in Clackamas County.

The teens, Jackson Chandler, 17, and Bradley Nelson, 16, were found on a forest service road by a Molalla resident around 1:30 p.m. Monday. The teens were found wet, cold and hungry, but not injured.

The teens set out for what was supposed to be a short hike around 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 in an area they had never hiked before. But the duo missed the trailhead on the Table Rock Trail, leaving them lost for 44 hours. When the two boys failed to return home Saturday evening, their parents notified authorities.

According to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, Chandler said after missing the trailhead they decided to park their truck and hike up a ridge they could see from the road. by: RYAN WARNICK -

KOIN Local 6 reported that Deputy Nate Thompson, who helped coordinate the search and rescue efforts with the sheriff’s office, said the 1999 Mazda B400 pickup truck was found Sunday evening five miles east of the Table Rock trailhead. Deputies made the discovery in the Lost Creek Meadow area.

Locating the truck, which was not out of gas, helped narrow the search. Thompson said one of the boys left behind a cellphone in the truck with photos taken by the boys as they drove to their hike.

“Some of the pictures had some snow in them but by now we think most of the snow has melted,” Thompson said, noting there were many places where hikers could get lost in the rural area and the rocks were wet and slippery.

Over the weekend, weather conditions remained favorable, with the heavy rains ending late Sunday. The rescue party had expected that the two teens would be able to survive — as long as they’re weren’t hurt.

Jackson Chandler’s father, Tim Chandler, said, “We were naturally concerned ... but there was always hope and optimism.”

Search-and-rescue teams spent Sunday night at Table Rock. A new group headed up around 7 a.m. Monday, joined by a Clackamas County mounted-patrol horse unit, search dogs and crews from West Linn along with Clackamas, Benton and Marion counties.

A search helicopter with Oregon Air National Guard arrived shortly after 9 a.m. Monday. Crews were determined to continue the search until the two West Linn High School students were found.

Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office reported more than 150 people — from 17 different agencies — from all over the region joined in an effort to locate the missing teens. Search efforts consisted of radio communications, ground searchers, K-9s, 4x4 groups, mountain rescue, helicopters and horse posse groups.

Tim Chandler said the level of support from the schools, the community and his church was tremendous. They received offers of food, 4x4s, ATVs, helicopters, an airplane and a horse brigade.

“It was overwhelming for us,” he said.

After walking along the ridge, the teens started walking back toward their truck but were unable to locate it. They continued walking through the wilderness until they found an old, closed-off logging road. After walking down several dead ends, they were able to find a road that looked well RYAN WARNICK  - Jackson Chandler, 17, shares a moment at base camp. The teen and his hiking partner, Bradley Nelson, 16, had a heartfelt reunion with friends and family Monday afternoon.

They kept walking this road until they located a passer-by — who was not part of the search team — and flagged that person down for help. The duo was found approximately six miles from their truck. This area is near Highway 224 east of Estacada.

The boys were described as experienced hikers, both are Boy Scouts just months away from earning their Eagle Scout merit badges.

“These are really resourceful boys who really did use all the skills they had,” Tim Chandler said, adding that they knew how to stay dry and stay warm.

Though they did not have food, the boys did have water, a camp stove to heat water, good outerwear, a compass, a first aid kit, knives and headlamps.

“They were actually well supplied for what they thought was a two to three hour hike,” Tim Chandler said.

As of Tuesday late afternoon, both boys had spent the day resting, according to Tim Chandler. He said they estimate the boys had walked between 35 and 45 miles over the two days. He added that his son suffered from some mild exposure and his feet and knees hurt, but was otherwise OK. “They’re just tired,” he RYAN WARNICK  - About 150 rescuers from 17 different agencies searched for the lost teens over the weekend and on Monday.

The boys are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The congregation is part of a grouping of seven congregations in West Linn, Lake Oswego and Wilsonville — called the Lake Oswego Oregon Stake.

Jim Hanchett, a family friend of the boys, works as their youth leader at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nearly three dozen church members gathered early Monday at the Molalla ward and fanned out around Table Mountain looking for any clue into the boys’ whereabouts.

The Chandlers expressed their gratitude for all the support they received both on and off the site.

“We certainly want to thank the community and the search teams,” Tim Chandler said. “We felt such wonderful love and support.” He also stressed the theme of faith and support from the church congregation.

“What we appreciated the most were the prayers, and that is ultimately what brought them home,” Tim Chandler said. “We’re thrilled to have our boys safe and at home.”

Friends and family waited at base camp and greeted the duo with teary eyes and heartfelt hugs when they were found.

“The thing that we had to keep telling ourselves was put one foot in front of the other,” Jackson Chandler said to members of the media who captured their emotional rescue during an impromptu press conference. “Taco Bell isn’t going to come to us.”

“I’m really thankful that they went through all that to try to help us and find us, and I know they put a lot of effort into it,” Nelson added.

Look for an in-depth story and interview with Jackson Chandler and Bradley Nelson and their families in next week’s Tidings.

KOIN Local 6 contributed to this story.

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