Texas Rescue Team In Aruba

In this photo released by, Paul van der Sloot, left, his wife Anita, center, and son Joran pose for a picture at a birthday party in Aruba in this undated 2005 picture.
AP Photo/
A volunteer rescue group from Texas launched a major ground and ocean search Saturday for an Alabama teen who disappeared nearly four weeks ago while on a school trip.

Also Saturday, a judge was to decide whether to allow prosecutors to continue holding justice official Paul van der Sloot, father of 17-year-old Joran van der Sloot, the honors student from the island who is believed to be one of the last people to see 18-year-old Natalee Holloway the night she went missing.

Texas EquuSearch's 24 volunteers, including eight rescue divers, planned to use sonar, sniffer dogs and divers to attempt to achieve what hundreds of officials and volunteers before them have failed to do.

"We are holding out hope that Natalee is alive, but we know the odds are against us," Tim Miller, director of the Dickinson, Texas-based group, said Friday on the eve of the search.

The volunteers arrived late Friday, at the request of Natalee's uncle, who lives in Houston. They brought four dogs trained to sniff out human remains, as well as sonar equipment that will be used in searching the coastal waters. Miller said the group would remain in Aruba "until we find Natalee."

He said the search could cost up to $100,000, and that his group had already raised about $25,000.

Miller said pro-athletes in the United States had approached him about helping with the search, but he declined to say who they were or how they might participate.

He said he arrived in Aruba on Thursday to meet with authorities, cross-check where they had searched, and plot out new sites.