Missing for two days, boy, 16, found safe in Castle Rock woods

CASTLE ROCK, Wash. - A 16-year-old boy missing for two days in the woods was found safe Friday, according to the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Mark Nelson said a deputy on an ATV found Elijah Velke at about 6:15 p.m. The boy was yelling for help and called out to the deputy that he was lost. Crews brought Velke out of the woods at about 8:45 p.m. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for exposure.

"We thank God that he was found and pray that he is healthy and well," said Nelson.

A team of searchers had spent all day Friday scouring miles of steep and rugged terrain looking for the teenager.

The boy's family said they believed he went out in the woods behind their home in the 900 block of McKee Road, which he does often, and was worried he was lost or injured.

He had not been seen since at least midday Wednesday. When he did not return home that night, the family started looking for him and called authorities about noon Thursday. The family continued to search until just before 7 p.m. and then called the sheriff's office again to report they still hadn't found him. Deputies were dispatched and searchers arrived in the area at about 9 p.m. They searched the woods and roads throughout the night.

On Friday morning, more searchers from other counties and the state began arriving to join the effort. A helicopter was set to arrive in the morning but was delayed until the afternoon because of mechanical problems.

About 50 volunteers were involved in the search of about 15 square miles of rugged timberland. In addition to the helicopter, they used search dogs and ATVs.