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Missing Minnesota park employee found OK after nine-hour search

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SOUDAN — A “man-tracker” led the way to finding a 76-year-old employee of a northern Minnesota park who went missing Wednesday while picking up litter along a trail.

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The nine-hour search that began with Soudan Underground Mine State Park staff ended with the woman found asleep Thursday morning along a trail made by her own footprints, which a small group of authorities followed to recover her.

LeRoy Aho of the St. Louis County Rescue Squad came upon Adrienne De Vries of Soudan, who was cold, wet and disoriented in a place called Cable Bay — an area of wooded and swampy terrain — authorities said. Several times, De Vries had crossed places that authorities described as “very wet, covered in water.”

“We had one squad member who found a suspicious footprint,” said Lt. Kurt Erickson of the rescue squad. “We brought in a man-tracker who took a strong interest in the print and found several more prints along the way. Every so often they’d find another tidbit that caused them to continue, and that’s how they finally found her.”

She was about three miles from the trail she had started along Wednesday.

An initial missing person report, made just after 6 p.m. Wednesday, said De Vries went to pick up litter toward the Alaska Shaft — east of the park visitor center — and had not come back.

De Vries was taken by ambulance from the park at about 5 a.m. Thursday to Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital for a precautionary evaluation. She was reported to be cold but in good condition.

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office said in its report that she started down the trail and lost her way back.

After De Vries failed to return by the end of her shift at 6 p.m., park staff searched for her. Park staff called the Breitung Township Police Department at about 6:20 p.m., and the sheriff’s office, rescue squad and Tower Fire Department also responded.

The rescue squad’s John Hanson found the initial footprint, which caused authorities to call on Aho and his assistant, Joe Swanson, who helped in the search. The Morse-Fall Lake Fire Department assisted in the effort as well.

The park is about 30 miles northeast of Virginia, along Lake Vermillion.

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