Search Continues For Boy Scout Missing For Days

Monday, March 19th 2007, 8:00 am

By: News On 6

MCGRADY, N.C. (AP) _ Search crews climbed across a heavily wooded mountain area in western North Carolina Monday, looking for a 12-year-old boy who disappeared during a weekend camping trip with his Boy Scout troop.

Michael Auberry vanished in the rugged terrain surrounding the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday after lunch with the other Scouts. Searchers found his mess kit within a mile of the camp site, but no new clues had surfaced Monday, officials said.

``We're hopeful he was able to find shelter. There are a number of rock crevasses, and he could have covered himself up with leaves,'' said Mike Lambert, a ranger with North Carolina State Parks.

Michael was dressed for the weather, with a heavy red coat with an inner fleece coat, and he had gloves and a hat in a pocket, his mother said.

The temperature dipped into the 20s overnight but was expected to be in the upper 50s during the day. Monday morning, about 70 people aided by search dogs and a helicopter began a third day of searching the area's logging roads and trails and scouring rugged off-road regions.

``We're hopeful at this point,'' said David Bauer, a ranger with the parkway. ``I've been on searches that have lasted over a week in worse weather and we've had successful outcomes.''

The rangers were working with the boy's family to learn everything they could about Michael's wilderness skills and how he might react to the situation, ranger Tina White said Monday.

She said an Amber Alert notifying area law enforcement of his disappearance had also been issued as a precaution, ``in case for some reason he is not on the area in which we are searching.''

About 10 scouts and their three adult leaders noticed Michael was missing after eating lunch together Saturday.

``The most probable thing is that he walked away, went out in the woods and went to investigate,'' Bauer said.

Michael, a Scout for about a year, likes camping, but he doesn't like the cold, his father, Kent Auberry of Greensboro, told the Winston-Salem Journal.

The boy had stayed behind with an adult leader Saturday morning while the rest of the troop went for a hike that morning ``because apparently he wanted to sleep in.'' The troop members returned for lunch. Soon after, between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m., they noticed Michael was missing from the camp, Bauer said.

Bauer said he wasn't aware of Michael having any arguments or problems with the troop members or his family.

Debbie Hayes, Michael's mother, said in addition to the red coat, the boy was wearing a dark blue University of North Carolina Tar Heels baseball cap.

``We're doing our best to provide moral support to the family, to the leaders of the troop,'' said John Meeks, Scout Executive of the Greensboro-based Old North State Council, which governs the troop and others in the region. ``They're asking for prayers. As you can imagine, they're concerned.''

Meeks said the troops' leaders were highly qualified. He said other scouts have left the area and returned home, but adults from the troop were on the scene.

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