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Tuesday, May 7, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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No Sign Of Woman Missing On Squak Mtn.

ISSAQUAH - Police and rescue workers were pinning their hopes today on a helicopter with a high-tech infrared sensing device to search Squak Mountain for 59-year-old hiker Donna Barensten, missing since Saturday.

Yesterday, when a dense cloud cover finally lifted and the copter moved into place over the north flank of Squak Mountain, it took only 20 minutes to scan the mountainside near where Barensten was last seen. The chopper crew found nothing.

Neither did about 50 rescue workers, searching by foot for the third day in a row in the densely wooded second-growth forest on the southern edge of the Issaquah city limits.

Barensten, an experienced Issaquah hiker reportedly in good health, fell behind her husband, Ronald, Saturday afternoon while on a day hike on the popular mountain trail.

Since Donna Barensten had knee problems earlier in the year and often walked more slowly than her husband, police said, Barensten didn't worry until he came to the end of the trail, retraced his steps and couldn't find her.

King County search-and-rescue workers looked briefly Saturday evening, then combed the woods all day Sunday and yesterday. They were focusing on a stretch of the trail a mile from Sierra Court Southwest, where Barensten was last seen.

"We haven't found a thread," said King County police spokesman Tony Burtt.

Yesterday, a distraught Ronald Barensten spent much of the day in police vehicles at the edge of Sierra Court Southwest, while waves of Explorer Scouts and other search experts moved in and out of the woods.

Burtt said Donna Barensten had hiked the trails "hundreds of times." The couple, married more than 30 years, lived less than a mile from the trail head, which led to an extensive network of well-traveled trails through second-growth forest.

Searchers said yesterday the trails were confusing and a hiker could easily become disoriented.

"If you had a stroke, if you were disoriented, you could stray quite a ways," said Burtt, who helped search Sunday.

Yet searchers also noted that the forest was surrounded on all sides by roads and houses, and even a confused hiker might eventually stumble out to a road or through someone's back yard.

"I don't think you can just stay lost this much," said Larry Kezner, Barensten's first cousin, who helped search Sunday and yesterday.

With that in mind, police notified all area hospitals and distributed photos of the woman.

There were rumors, too. One Issaquah resident reported seeing someone who looked like Donna Barensten near town yesterday, said Sgt. Bill Couture.

Police say there is no evidence of foul play.

Barensten was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, khaki shorts, boots and a floppy white hat. She also had a backpack and green raincoat with her.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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