May 29, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

By mid-day Wednesday, the news was great.

Grande Ronde River rafters with a Salmon River Rafting outfit had been flagged down by Darryn Kyle, 20, the lost Eastern Oregon University student from Forest Grove. They were heading to Troy, with Kyle safe.

Larry Schlesser, a coordinator with Union County Search and Rescue, left for Troy to meet the raft and bring an end to the team's two-day search.

Things didn't go quite as planned.

"He's coming out about noon or so today," Schlesser told The Observer this morning.

What exactly happened, first to Kyle as he apparently tried to walk out of the Blue Mountains Monday night and then to him and his raft rescuers is, at this point, conjecture.

Kyle reportedly was between Jubilee Lake and Tower, about two miles south of the Umatilla County line Monday evening, planning on turkey hunting with a friend.

The pair's vehicle became stuck in snow, and Kyle decided to walk to a camp they had seen earlier. The vehicle was dislodged, but by 10 p.m. Kyle's friends realized he was not where he was expected.

The word came through to searchers shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday that a satellite call had been received by the Bureau of Land Management that a group of rafters had located Kyle along the Grande Ronde River, in the Rondowa area about five miles north of where the Grande Ronde and Wallowa rivers intersect.

Kyle was reported to be in good condition, and not in need of immediate medical attention.

Schlesser said that Union County rescue coordinators let Kyle's mother know of his safety, as she had arrived from Forest Grove.

Also contacted quickly were helicopter searchers from the 36th Rescue Flight from Fairchild Air Force Base and the 939th Rescue Wing from Portland. Both were sending helicopter search and rescue squads to assist. The Portland unit had been looking for Kyle Tuesday, but had not been scheduled to return Wednesday.

Fairchild notified Union County Wednesday morning, though,

that both teams were planning to participate.

Richard Henry, one of the county's search and rescue man trackers, said both helicopter rescue units had just gotten clearance to search when Kyle was located. One unit, in fact, had just left for Union County.

For the county search and rescue team, there was happiness that the two units were "ready and willing" to assist, Henry said.

But now, everyone waits.

Schlesser this morning is waiting for a call — numerous rafters in the Troy area were contacted Wednesday, and messages were left at the Troy store asking Kyle to contact the county searchers.

The thought is that the rafters, with Kyle, probably decided to camp above Troy along the river. The rafters, Schlesser guesses, would have had extra clothing and food to share with Kyle.

"He has to be just a little above Troy, no more than 12 to 15 miles," Schlesser said.

He's guessing that Kyle may have found the Grande Ronde River as early as Wednesday morning after hiking across country most of the day Tuesday.

"Anything like a river or lights are a beacon" to people who are lost, Schlesser said, noting that Kyle probably saw the river from high in the breaks north and east of Palmer Junction and Looking Glass.

For the whole story, though, everyone will have to wait for the drifting of a raft on a river.

Schlesser hopes Kyle will be willing to come to a meeting of the county search and rescue team, explaining what he did and his decision-making process during what might have been a 14- to 16-mile hike.

And rescuers will be adding up the costs. By midnight Tuesday, estimates were that 180 manhours had gone into the search, with help from Union, Umatilla and Wallowa counties, along with the rescue flight.

Schlesser knows that he had already "put 300-some miles on my rig" since Tuesday morning.

As for Kyle, well, his mother is waiting.

Reach T.L. Petersen at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it