Times Standard (Eureka)

Missing for two weeks, forager is found dead


A two-week search for a woman missing in a remote California forest concluded Saturday with the discovery of her body, the Del Norte County sheriff said.

Vana Sisopha, 71, had not been seen since Feb. 3, when she became separated from her husband and daughter as they hunted for mushrooms in the Smith River National Recreation Area near Gasquet. The three, from Tacoma, Washington, were experience­d foragers and had previously visited the area, family members said.

Sisopha’s husband showed up at a ranger station around 8 p.m. on Feb. 3 and reported the women missing. The 44-yearold daughter was found the next afternoon suffering from mild hypothermi­a.

The search for the older woman involved dozens of agencies, some from the Bay Area, using helicopter­s, airplanes, drones, dogs and infrared imaging equipment. Overnight temperatur­es dipped below freezing in the search area, around 2,000 feet elevation between French Hill and the Smith River near Gasquet.

Four members of the Del Norte County Search and Rescue team unexpected­ly had to spend a night in the forest when they were unable to navigate the rugged terrain as darkness fell. They were airlifted out the next day, and one member was treated at a hospital for hypothermi­a.

The search was put on hold by a snowstorm Feb. 14. Returning to the area on the weekend, searchers around sunset on Saturday, Feb. 18, found Sisopha’s body in a hollow under a log.

Sheriff Garrett Scott told the Wild Rivers Outpost that a coroner’s investigat­ion would determine the cause of death.

There was no reported sight

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