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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Olympic park search for state pension official suspended

The Associated Press

HOODSPORT – The official search for a missing state pension official in Olympic National Park has been suspended after 10 days of fruitless efforts by dozens of backwoods professionals and volunteers.

After failing to find any sign of Gilbert Gilman, 47, deputy director of state Department of Retirement Systems, "we've reached the limits of what we can do," park ranger Michael J. Danisiewicz said in a park statement announcing an end to the effort Tuesday night.

According to the statement, some park rangers will continue a scaled-down search for Gilman, a former Army paratrooper and later a civilian contractor in Iraq. He has not been seen since he went on what by all appearances he planned to be a day hike June 24 in the Staircase area west of the bend in Hood Canal.

After he failed to appear the next day for a meeting, his 2005 silver Ford Thunderbird convertible was found at the Staircase ranger station parking lot.

National Park Service staff and volunteers spent more than 5,000 hours on the search, which included the use of dogs, helicopters and sophisticated underwater cameras in the rapids of the North Fork Skokomish River, park spokeswoman Cat Hawkins Hoffman said.

"We've explored both the logical and the more remote scenarios of what Mr. Gilman may have done, decisions he may have made and routes he may have chosen, but none of them produced results," said Danisiewicz, who was in charge of the search. "No one knew of his plans, and we've found nothing to help determine where he might have gone."

On hand for what turned out to be the final day of the full-scale search in the rugged, densely forested area were Gilman's girlfriend, Donovan Slack, 38, a reporter for the Boston Globe; his mother, Doris Gilman, and her partner, Burt Persky; and Gilman's sister, Lori Mattiasen, 48, of New York.

After seeing Gilman survive the dangers of war in Iraq, "I was so shocked that my brother could be missing after going on an afternoon hike in a national park," Mattiasen said. "He had his laundry in the back of the car — he was planning to do laundry after the hike."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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