Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023 @ 1:10 p.m. / Emergencies

DN Sheriff Decides to Continue Searching For Missing Woman, Will Get More Searchers, Resources From CalOES

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter is continuing to assist in the search of a Washington woman who went missing near Gasquet. | Photo courtesy of Del Norte Search & Rescue


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Sisophia Va | Courtesy David Lim

After searchers found her dog alive as well as a piece of her jacket recently, the Del Norte County Sheriff says he doesn’t want to suspend the search for a 71-year-old Washington woman that’s been missing near Gasquet for about six days

Sheriff Garrett Scott said at about 12:40 p.m. Thursday that the California Office of Emergency Services is sending resources to help, though he’s not sure yet how many people are coming in.

CalOES has already provided a plane with infrared imaging capabilities to comb the area for the missing woman. Scott said he should get an answer from the state soon.

“We’ve already used them for the air portion, but that’s one of my resources — mutual aid from them if I feel like it’s worthy,” he said. “And I do feel like we need to continue for now.”

Searchers from multiple agencies have combed the steep wooded area between milepost marker 5 on French Hill Road and milepost marker 15 on U.S. 199 since Friday. The missing woman’s name as it appears on her driver’s license is Sisophia Va, according to the sheriff. Her family knows her as Vana Chansavang, according to her son-in-law David Lim.

Va and her 44-year-old daughter was separated from her husband while picking mushrooms. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescued the daughter at about 2 p.m. Saturday and transported her to the hospital with hypothermia.

Va’s son, Michael Chansavang, and multiple other family members have been assisting with the search on Monday. According to Scott, Michael Chansavang was with the search party that found the woman’s dog, Blackey.

“This morning we have the SAR command center set up,” Scott told the Outpost on Thursday. “There’s a crew of U.S. Forest Service members doing a ground search and working on a trail to make access a little better. I believe they’re all volunteering their time. We have one more helo possibly coming from the CHP… and I have a drone up there today.”

Va’s family are also searching, though Scott said he’s warned them that with the steep terrain it could be dangerous.

The CHP helicopter has an infrared unit on board and can get lower and closer than the Cal-Ore Life Flight helicopter that assisted with the search, Scott said. The sheriff said a drone is also assisting with the effort.

On Wednesday, Scott told the Outpost that searchers will likely make a final attempt at finding Va on Thursday before calling off the ground portion at least.

On Thursday, before deciding to continue the search, Scott said authorities were “leaning towards” calling off the ground search but continuing to scan the area with drones. However, he said a ground crew could be deployed depending on what the drone turns up.

“It’s too dangerous,” Scott said. “We’ve already had too many people injured. The terrain is extremely difficult. Professionals that have been on the hillsides have backed out of it, so it’s dangerous up there.”

However, later Scott said the piece of the missing woman’s jacket that was discovered was found on a tree limb right above a cliff “that’s just terrible — it’s straight down.”

“I decided let’s go ahead and continue,” he said. “The U.S. Forest Service crew is in the brush as we speak. We have not called off the search and at this point, I’m not willing to do it yet.”


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