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Rescuers Step Up Search for Boy, 9

August 03, 2004|Louis Sahagun | Times Staff Writer

Rescue teams on the ground and in the air expanded their search Monday for a 9-year-old boy who disappeared two days earlier while camping with his parents in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Lake.

David Gonzales was last seen about 8 a.m. Saturday at Hanna Flat campground about 1 1/2 miles northwest of Big Bear Lake, said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Robin Haynal.

The boy vanished moments after leaving the campsite to retrieve cookies from the family truck, which was parked about 50 yards away, authorities said.

Witnesses told the boy's parents, Jose and Rosenda Gonzales of Lake Elsinore, that they saw a full-sized beige pickup truck with a motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle in the back speeding away from the campground at about the same time. Authorities do not suspect foul play.

The search began an hour later, with volunteers and deputies on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicles combing the mountainous region of dense brush, forests and ravines. Vehicles leaving the campground were stopped by authorities.

On Monday, the search team was joined by volunteers from Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles and Kern counties, as well as eight dog teams and a helicopter, authorities said. Rescuers found a few tracks early Monday, authorities said, but they did not match David's shoes.

"We're still treating this as a lost child operation," Haynal said. "We do not suspect foul play. We just know the boy is missing and we are hopeful that we will find him."

"We expanded the search zone," she added, "which over the weekend extended about four miles from the campground."

David, who speaks mostly Spanish and has a speech impediment, was last seen wearing a blue T-shirt with a motorcycle emblem, gray sweatpants and white Nike athletic shoes. David is small for his age at 3 feet, 10 inches tall and 52 pounds.

"The search will continue into the night and then resume early in the morning," Haynal said Monday. "We have no plans to call it off."

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