JACOB LAKE, Ariz. – Search efforts continue near Jacob Lake for 5-year-old Jerold Williams, a Colorado City boy who has been missing in Kaibab National Forest since Thursday afternoon.
“We are here checking people in for the fifth day of our search,” Gerry Blair, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, said Monday morning.
Nothing conclusive has been found so far in the search for Jerold. Family members of the boy said Sunday night that searchers found a child’s footprints, but it is unknown whether they were Jerold’s.
An area was also found where somebody had bedded down for the night; but, again, it is not known at this time whether that somebody was the little boy.
“We found a place where someone slept,” Blair said. “We can’t say with any certainty at this point that it was the missing child. We found several things that could be related to him but maybe not. … But we take all that into account. But considering the fact that it may be connected to him, we’ll concentrate our efforts in those areas. But we really have no concrete things that we’ve found yet that tells us, yes, this is definitely our child and this is where he went, so that’s been real frustrating.”
Intensive ground search operations have been ongoing since law enforcement was notified of Jerold’s disappearance Thursday evening and commenced their search. A great deal of military aircraft, equipped with specialty devices, have been deployed to search at night, Blair said, using thermal imaging and night vision equipment to try and find Jerold.
“So this has been a 24/7 operation,” Blair said. “Just because the sun goes down doesn’t mean we suspend operations. We’re working through the night.”
Hundreds of people from all over Arizona, as well as Utah, have participated in the search efforts each day, bringing specialized equipment, ATVs, search dogs and even horses. Almost every county in Arizona has been represented as the search goes on, Blair said.
From Utah, there has been a particularly large response from Kane County, he said.
Search and rescue volunteers from Washington County and responders from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office joined crews on the mountain Sunday.
About 20 volunteers drove all the way from Washington state Sunday, as well, and about 300 volunteers from Colorado City also participated in Sunday’s search efforts.
“We’ve probably had 500 people on foot in the field today (Sunday),” Blair said. “That’s a massive search effort.”
Search and rescue volunteers from the Arizona 4×4 Club traveled up from Phoenix to help in the search and will remain at Jacob Lake “for the duration” until the efforts conclude, Fredrick Niehans, head of East Valley search and rescue for the club, said.
“I have kids. I have a 4-year-old granddaughter,” Niehans said. “I don’t know what I would do if I lost her. … I would only pray that I could get this kind of turnout.”
And as the days wear on and little Jerold is not found, prayer is just what family and community members from Colorado City are leaning on.
Blair said Jerold’s family members would also appreciate prayers on their behalf from the public.
In a missing child case, Blair said, two parallel operations are always conducted: The main focus is searching for the child, and the second focus is conducting a criminal investigation to rule out any possibility of foul play. He said no indication of foul play has been found in connection with Jerold’s disappearance.
“Obviously the search is ongoing as well as the investigation,” Blair said.
Computer technology is being used to log places where searchers have already been, eliminating areas so the focus can be switched to other locations.
The longer the search stretches out, the more heartbreaking it is for Jerold’s family members and also for the rescuers, Blair said.
“As the days go on, you see a little bit of frustration,” he said, “but you also see a lot of determination.”
“We know it’s possible that he is still alive and has survived,” Blair went on to say. “We’re going under that premise, so everything we do is expedient and we want to get it done quick and move on to another area. And we would like nothing more than to bring this child home alive to his parents, and that’s our goal is to unite him with his family. And so we’re not even considering the possibility that he isn’t alive at this point.”
Jerold Joseph Williams’ description:
- Age: 5
- Gender: Male
- Race: White
- Height: 3 feet 6 inches
- Weight: 35 pounds
- Eyes: Brown
- Hair: Short, brown
- Clothing: gray/tan shirt (size 4), blue jeans (size 4), hiking boots (size 12), white long-handled underwear.
- Identifying marks: visible facial abrasions
Anyone with information regarding the possible location of Jerold Williams or any details about his disappearance is urged to call the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office at 928-774-4523.
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