COOS COUNTY — Search and Rescue teams found former Coos County oncologist Dr. Richard Ellerby deceased over the weekend.
The discovery ended a nearly week-long search after the 78-year-old, with a history of dementia, was reported missing from his West Catching Slough home on Oct. 2.
At about 10:50 a.m. on Sunday morning, Oct. 7, a search team from the Lane County Sheriff’s Office located the body of Dr. Ellerby in a wooded area approximately 600 yards from his home.
“It’s not very far, but it is fairly common to find people with dementia that close,” said Capt. Kelley Andrews with the Coos County Sherriff’s Office. “When you get a dementia patient, a lot of times they get confused and they get into an area where they just don’t know where they are.”
The Coos County Medical Examiner’s Office was called to the scene, determining hypothermia as a preliminary cause of death.
“Results aren’t back yet, I think that’s what it’s going to be is hypothermia,” Andrews said.
On Oct. 2, Ellerby was last seen at his residence around 8:30 a.m. A jogger saw him near his home around 9:30 a.m. with a notepad in his hand.
At about 3:30 pm that afternoon, the Coos County Sheriff’s Office received a report that Ellerby had gone missing. Searches were conducted until it got dark and resumed in the morning.
On Oct. 3, the Coast Guard joined the Search and Rescue teams by surveying the perimeter from helicopters. Again, no sign of Ellerby was found.
On Thursday, Oct. 4, the county reached out to California Oregon Search and Rescue, which provided teams from neighboring counties. At this point in the search, drone technology was deployed to help look for Ellerby. Toward the end of the day, the Sheriff’s Office received unverified information that he may have been visiting someone in the Portland metropolitan area.
Ground searches continued over the weekend until Ellerby was found Sunday morning.
“This was one of our longer searches," Andrews said. "The last one I remember that lasted this long was an elk hunter that went missing up at Lost Creek."
Ellerby worked as an oncologist in Coos County for several years at North Bend Medical Center.
He received his medical degree from Oregon Health and Science University in 1966. For several years he served on the OHSU Alumni Association Executive Council and was president of that council at one time.
Throughout the course of the five-day search, the Coos County Sheriff's Office received assistance from the sheriff’s offices of Lane County, Douglas County, Jackson County, Josephine County, Curry County and Del Norte County. Additionally volunteers from the Sumner Fire Department, Lakeside Fire Department, Coos Forest Protection Association, as well as Coos County’s own local Search and Rescue members and neighborhood volunteers joined the effort. Other local agencies such as the Salvation Army, the Coos and Douglas Chaplains Association and Sea Cadets assisted with the search.
“This has been great example of the cooperation we have with our partner agencies, both inside and outside Coos County," Andrews said. "The thing about search and rescue volunteers is that it takes a very special person to do what they do. They don’t get any money, they buy their own equipment, and when the call goes out they drop what they’re doing and come help."