Curiosity, they say, killed the cat. Luckily for Darel Beemer of Umatilla, being curious is not always fatal. Beemer was the subject of an intensive search and rescue effort in March of 1999 after he disappeared during a trip to McNary Dam.
Beemer, 25, was one of a group of developmentally disabled clients of Rise, Inc. on a social outing to the hydroelectric dam just outside Umatilla. He had gone into the bushes around 3 p.m. on March 16, 1999, to change into a dry pair of pants after wading in one of the ponds on the dam’s grounds. When he failed to reappear, Rise Inc. employees began a search. An hour later, Umatilla County Search and Rescue was called. They were told that a fisherman saw Beemer climbing the dam’s fish ladder within the first hour he went missing.
Ed Beemer, Darel’s father, was puzzled at how the young man could have breached dam security, but said Darel was able to get into places others could not. “He’s pretty limber,” Beemer said.
About 23 hours after he was first reported missing, a pair of Darel’s pants was found near an elevator door inside the dam complex. Searchers eventually found him hunkered down in the Grout Tunnel, at the 235-foot level. Jan Good, the coordinator of the search and rescue team, said she was told Darel liked to play hide and seek, and the tunnel was the perfect place for a game. Also, Darel was unable to speak due to Down syndrome, and so was unable to lead rescuers to his hiding place.
Ed Beemer was grateful Darel was found, a little dehydrated and cold, but none the worse for his day-long ordeal. “What he did, he did for no other reason than curiosity,” he said. And he credited the search and rescue team and Rise inc. employees for giving “110 percent” during Darel’s disappearance.