Girl, 12, found safe after five-hour search

Youth strayed off trail in woods near middle school, became lost

Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Twelve-year-old Emily Hawkins learned a valuable lesson Tuesday after getting lost for five hours in the woods above Dzantik'I Heeni Middle School.

"If you realize you are sort of lost, don't just keep thinking you are going to get out of this soon," she said. "If it's been about half an hour of trying to get out of there, it's about time you just sit down in that one spot and call the police and tell them to let your parents know that you're there."

Hawkins got separated from a friend around 3 p.m. Tuesday prior to boarding a school activities bus to go home. Realizing she was about to miss the bus, Hawkins strayed off a trail and tried to take a short cut.

"She thought maybe she'd take a shortcut and it turned out not to be a short cut at all," said Emily's mother, Pascale Hawkins. "It was a very long cut."

Emily Hawkins tried to find her way out of the woods but soon became disoriented.

"A little before I admitted I was completely lost, I just thought, 'Hey, I get lost all the time in the woods and I get out really easily,'" she said. "After I figured out I was really lost I figured I'd stay right there."

Hawkins had been talking on her cell phone with a friend for a while and decided to call 9-1-1 shortly before the battery was completely depleted. The Juneau Police Department, the Alaska State Troopers, SEADOGS, Juneau Mountain Rescue and the newly formed Douglas Mountain Rescue launched a search and rescue operation with 18 people.

Hawkins said she was in a muskeg area and got her shoes really wet and was not dressed in very warm clothes. She sat down on a stump, rung her socks out, and tucked her arms inside her jacket and put her feet inside her sleeves.

"I was pretty freaked out thinking, 'I don't like the dark and I pretty much hate the woods at night,'" she said.

Sgt. Matt Dobson of the AST located Hawkins around 8 p.m.

"She saw Matt's headlamp and it must have been a wonderful feeling for her because she saw the headlamp coming up the trail and she just got up and ran to him," said Bruce Bowler of SEADOGS.

Hawkins stayed very positive throughout her whole ordeal, he said.

"She may have been crying, wet, muddy, miserable, cold and scared to death, but she had this amazing, positive attitude that kept her going, kept her alive and I think helped her survive," he said.

Bowler was standing with Hawkins' friends and family near the command center when she emerged from the woods.

"She put it into high gear and opened her arms and ran into the arms of her buddies and her parents," he said. "She was just a 12-year-old bundle of joy busting out of the woods into the arms of her family and friends. That makes search and rescue, all these years of working hard and spending hours in the woods training, it makes it all worthwhile."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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