Robert Crump got off work about 5:30 p.m. Thursday and, like hundreds of folks from across Oregon, headed into the woods to look for Zoey Dorsey, a 4-year-old who'd gone missing the day before.
PORTLAND — Robert Crump got off work about 5:30 p.m. Thursday and, like hundreds of folks from across Oregon, headed into the woods to look for Zoey Dorsey, a 4-year-old who'd gone missing the day before.
Crump and his wife, Peggy, pointed their pickup — hauling the couple's ATV — down the backroads near Zoey's house, then Crump hopped on the ATV and headed down a muddy logging road. He got off and started circling a canyon behind Zoey's Curry County home.
Crump waited for the blare of the helicopter to fade away. He wanted quiet so he could listen for signs of Zoey.
He waited. Then he heard something.
"I heard a funny yip noise, a yelp," Crump told The Oregonian on Friday. "It definitely didn't sound natural."
He zeroed in on the faint sound. He circled the canyon, stepping through thick layers of brambles, briars and fallen limbs. He followed game trails. He listened for that faint cry but heard nothing.
"Zoey!" Crump called out over and over.
"I was pretty discouraged. I would stop and listen," he said. "I wasn't getting any more response. I started to turn around to go back up the hill."
Crump stepped carefully, glancing down at his feet to make sure of his footing. And there she was, right at his feet.
"She was so buried and camouflaged under the stickers and salal," he said. "I was circling around these bushes. I was very close to her and didn't realize it."
"It startled me," he said. He thought, "This can't be true."
Crump called out the words searchers had longed to hear all day: "I found her!"
Crump's wife, Peggy, called back, "Oh my God!" She ran to the truck of another volunteer searcher and longtime Brookings resident, Donald Hodges. She honked Hodges' truck horn to get his attention. Hodges ran back, phoned 9-1-1 and asked for a helicopter.
Meanwhile, Crump carefully pulled back the thick underbrush that had buried Zoey, careful not to scratch the girl.
Finally, he was able to get his arms around her and pull her out.
"I grabbed her arm and put it around my neck and she latched on," he said. "She was really cold and stiff. I just held her in my arms."
He carried her out, half the time crawling on his hands and knees.
All the while, he talked to Zoey.
"We are going to make it, Zoey. We are headed home to Mama."
Zoey, who was weak and hypothermic, never said a word.
Crump, 47, who works heavy construction in Brookings, has three grown kids and four grandchildren, said he's not an emotional guy.
"I'm hands-on, get-it-done but looking back on it this morning, it's pretty emotional," said Crump, who was born and raised in Brookings.
He knows Zoey wouldn't have survived another night in the cold woods and considers himself lucky to have picked the right place to look. He found her just as darkness was setting in.
When he and Zoey finally reached the road, Peggy Crump wrapped the girl in a hoodie and a thick hunting coat. The couple reassured Zoey that help was on the way. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter hovered overhead, then lowered a basket.
The Crumps gently pried Zoey off Robert Crump and handed her to one of the rescuers. Zoey quickly nestled her head against the shoulder of the rescuer who placed her in the basket.
Just before he gave the pilot a thumbs-up, Crump had one more thing to say to Zoey: "You're going to be OK."
"And they flew off," Crump said.
Information from: The Oregonian, http:www.oregonlive.com