The more than month-long search for a missing Milton-Freewater man may have to wait until spring, authorities said.
Umatilla County Sheriff John Trumbo said his agency may have lost time searching for Jason Sartin in the wrong area of Tiger Canyon.
Trumbo said he believes the friend who went four-wheel driving with Sartin on Nov. 13 holds the key to the man’s disappearance.
Sartin, 32, is believed to have driven his truck off the roadway along Tiger Canyon Road. Sartin and Nathan Koerner had gone riding in the Umatilla National Forest that day. Koerner contacted authorities in the afternoon to say Sartin had driven off, leaving him stranded.
Sartin’s pickup is a silver, raised 1976 four-wheel drive Chevrolet shortbed pickup. Trumbo said the truck may be at the bottom of a deep canyon that would be inaccessible as winter progresses.
Trumbo said at least 10 days were spent looking on the ground and below into the canyons for signs of a truck, without luck. Although crews and volunteers spent hundreds of hours searching the area Koerner described last seeing Sartin, Trumbo says he believes they may have been looking in the wrong area.
"Nathan has been less than honest with us," Trumbo said. "I can prove that over and over again. He’s made statements to us that have proven to be not true. The area where he last saw him is not true. Factoring in all the timelines that have been provided, we put a piece here and a piece there, and we come up that he’s been lying to us."
Koerner was picked up by a Walla Walla college student, and had injuries that may indicate he was in some sort of vehicle accident, Trumbo said. Details of Koerner’s story aren’t adding up, he said, like the length of time he says it took him to walk from where he last saw Sartin to where he was eventually picked up.
"I’m assuming, as are the other investigators involved in this, is that what has occurred is an accident," Trumbo said. "Either he or Jason was driving, and that vehicle went off the road."
"The possibility of the vehicle going off the road is very good," he added.
"He just needs to do the right thing," Trumbo continued. "The Sartin family has a right to know where their son and brother is at. And he’s the key to that."
Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8317.