Vancouver teen survived on pine needles during 32 hours lost near Mt. St. Helens


Anthony Mancuso had fallen down a ravine after stepping off of Hummocks Trail near Spirit Lake Highway

COWLITZ COUNTY — A Vancouver teenager who spent 32 hours lost along the Hummocks Trail northwest of Mt. St. Helens spent most of his time in a tree, surviving on pine needles.

Sixteen-year-old Anthony Mancuso stepped off the trail to relieve himself while hiking with family Sunday afternoon. Hours later, he still hadn’t returned.

A U.S. Navy helicopter searches for Anthony Mancuso of Vancouver near Mt. St. Helens on Monday. Photo courtesy Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office
A U.S. Navy helicopter searches for Anthony Mancuso of Vancouver near Mt. St. Helens on Monday. Photo courtesy Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office

Frantic, Anthony’s mother reached out to friends on social media, who contacted the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office. They responded and searched until dark on Sunday, including the use of a Washington State Patrol drone with infrared capabilities, but found no sign of the teenager.

They also brought in a helicopter from the Air National Guard in Portland, but still failed to catch sight of Anthony.

16-year-old Anthony Mancuso was found alive Monday night after spending nearly 32 hours lost northwest of Mt. St. Helens. Photo courtesy Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office
16-year-old Anthony Mancuso was found alive Monday night after spending nearly 32 hours lost northwest of Mt. St. Helens. Photo courtesy Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office

Monday, more than 100 people showed up, including search and rescue teams from around the region, as well as friends and family of Anthony.

Despite the resources, which included a U.S. Navy helicopter, it appeared they would have to suspend the search again on Monday without any answers.

“When I was up there I spoke with (Anthony’s) dad, and he was really anguishing over the situation,” said Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman. “I don’t think he’d slept since (Anthony) went missing.”

The family brought in help from Huffman Canine Obedience Training, a dog training program out of Canby, Oregon. They arrived Monday afternoon, and eventually located a shoe that appeared to belong to Anthony.

“That kind of reinvigorated things and focused on that area, and then finding a second shoe,” Thurman says, “and then Anthony close by up a tree.”

That was shortly after 9 p.m.

The teen had lost his voice after eating pine needles during the night to survive, but he managed to whistle when he heard searchers approaching.

So what happened?

According to Anthony, he slipped and fell into a small ravine a short ways off of the trail. Once he recovered from that, he was startled by a coyote.

“He kind of took off running, and that’s the point where he lost his shoes,” says Thurman. “And he kind of was hiding from the animal himself in a bush, and then eventually climbed up a nearby tree and actually was up in the tree, from what he told us, probably at least 24 hours.”

Anthony was barely 150 yards from where he had initially gone missing, proving just how difficult the terrain in that area of the Mt. St. Helens wilderness can be. 

The red X shows where Anthony Mancuso was found, barely 150 yards from where he went missing on Sunday. Photo courtesy Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office
The red X shows where Anthony Mancuso was found, barely 150 yards from where he went missing on Sunday. Photo courtesy Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office

It was actually the fact that he was in a tree that kept the searchers from spotting him in the air, Thurman said. 

“He heard the helicopters, heard the drones,” says Thurman. “But he was not able to draw attention to himself.”

While some may be quick to criticize the teenager’s actions, Thurman says it’s important to understand that everyone reacts differently in moments of crisis like this.

“We would ask people to please respect the family’s privacy and not be critical of the situation,” Thurman said. “We are very happy with the end result.”

Aside from being cold, hungry, and a little scrapped up, Anthony was able to walk out on his own and sleep in his own bed last night.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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