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Seven Teens Hunted In Utah

Seven teen-agers vanished into the rocky southern Utah desert after allegedly attacking and tying up two counselors during a camping trip for troubled youth.

Two sets of tracks found Sunday led searchers to believe that the seven boys may have split into two groups. An eighth teen was captured Saturday.

The search for the seven, called off just after midnight Sunday, resumed Monday morning. Police were using a helicopter with night-vision equipment, parasails and bloodhounds.

"We have approximately 3,500 square miles of an unforgiving, hostile territory," said Iron County Sheriff David "Dude" Benson. "If they get wet, they're in real trouble. But they're all from the East Coast, so I don't know if they recognize how hostile this environment is."

Benson said the teens beat 23-year-old counselor Kirk Stock unconscious with sticks, tried to break his legs and then bound him with duct tape.

Then the group allegedly threatened 22-year-old counselor Sunshine Fuller, tied her to a tree and fled with the counselors' two-way radios, which officials believed the boys are using to monitor police communications

They escaped Saturday with one-day ration packs of food, wool coats and blankets. The youths disappeared near Cedar City, 220 miles south of Salt Lake City.

"We're not going to find them until they want to be found," Benson said. "But sooner or later, they're going to want to be found. They only have rations for one day. And we're already moving into the second day."

Saturday, their first night of freedom, temperatures fell to 6 degrees. Sunday night was warmer, but temperatures still reached 17 degrees.

The boys, between the ages of 14 and 16, were on a camping trip sponsored by Red Cliffs Ascent Inc., one of several southern Utah outfitters that teach troubled youths survival skills. Company officials refused to comment.

The captured teen has been charged with felony aggravated assault, simple assault and theft, Benson said. He is being held in a juvenile detention center in Cedar City.

"He wanted to be caught," Benson said.

Benson said the alleged attack was not the first time Red Cliffs has had escapees during its camping trips. "This is the third time we've been out here with the same company," Benson said. "What's new is before there wasn't an assault."

In previous cases, Red Cliffs officials were able to capture the runaways, he said.

By LUBNA KHAN