Two St. Mary’s teens who were reported missing on Monday afternoon were located “safe and unharmed” on Tuesday just before 5 p.m., and their father thanked local helpers who poured in support for the search effort.
The boys were found in an abandoned house in Westmoreland County, Va., by the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office after receiving a tip from a citizen there.
The pair, who were identified as 13-year-old Jesse Oleg Clark and 15-year-old Josiah Vladimir Clark, had last been seen at their home off Harry James Road in Ridge on Sunday night, according to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, and their parents reported them missing at about 3 p.m. on Monday.
Stephen Clark, the boys’ father, said he had seen them before going to bed on Sunday, and noticed the next morning that they were gone. “Sometime, around 7-ish in the morning we realized they weren’t here, and it took us a little time looking for them before we realized the canoe is missing,” the father said.
A canoe as well as at least one life jacket and some paddles had been missing from the home, according to St. Mary’s sheriff’s office spokesperson Cpl. Julie Yingling.
Out of the seven Clark siblings, some had heard the two speaking in the weeks prior about an adventure by paddle to Virginia, which they had not thought about until the family realized the canoe was not there.
“I don’t think anyone thought anything about it, until the canoe was missing,” Stephen Clark said.
Volunteer search parties filled up quickly Tuesday morning to find the boys, who tended to leave for exercise unannounced, according to Yingling, but had been gone for a longer than usual amount of time.
Emergency services as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office, the Calvert County canine unit and the Civil Air Patrol, which the boys were members of, worked the search from the Ridge firehouse throughout Monday night and Tuesday.
Low-flying Coast Guard aircraft searched for thermal signatures in the area throughout Monday night after land units left, according to the Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, which functioned as the headquarters of the search.
On Tuesday afternoon, lawmen from the Westmoreland sheriff’s office received a tip from a caller that two boys had been spotted in an abandoned house in the Coles Point area.
“We dispatched deputies, and Sgt. Jones located the two boys in the abandoned house,” Sgt. Eric Molinares of the Westmoreland sheriff’s office said.
The boys were brought back to the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office, where they were reunited with their parents.
The Virginia shoreline is less than 4 miles across the Potomac from St. Mary’s County in some spots, although by water from Ridge to Coles Point is more than 10 miles.
When he was notified that the boys were found, their father said, “There was a great relief, obviously, just a relief.”
“I had peace in the Lord at all times, that he was in control the whole time,” while still understanding the boys may not have been found, Stephen Clark said. Heavily involved in the Seek and Ye Shall Find Bible Church in Lexington Park, Clark said he was “absolutely” guided spiritually through the days-long crisis.
“I can’t tell you how many people, all of them were praying for us,” the father said. The family had received hundreds of texts of support, and friends came to support the family even overnight, bringing food over.
“The show of support from the community was overwhelming, impressive, and greatly appreciated,” Scot Best, Ridge Volunteer Fire Department public information officer, wrote in a release.
“I just want to thank the community for all that they’ve done. I don’t know where to start, there’s so many entities involved that I can’t even list,” Stephen Clark said. “It was just overwhelming, all those people that came out and helped.”
“I just love the community for standing behind me in these times,” he said.