By Jonathan Kaminsky
Olympia, Washington (Reuters) – An Arizona teenager who appears to have vanished into the remote woods of Oregon may have been inspired by the 2007 movie “Into the Wild,” based on the true story of a young man who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness and died there, his father said on Sunday.
Missing 18-year-old Johnathan Croom’s 2000 Honda CRV was found a week ago on a road near the small town of Riddle, Oregon, with his identification and money inside it, his father, David Croom, said in a telephone interview from a search site.
The father said he became concerned that his son may have gone missing after he failed to return last Monday to resume classes at Mesa Community College in Arizona, after driving to visit a friend in Washington state.
Croom said his son sent a text message to a friend more than a week ago saying: “I’m going adventuring.”
Croom described his son as a happy young man with an electric smile who had – in the past six months – grown fascinated by the true story of Christopher McCandless.
In the early 1990s, McCandless, a recent college graduate, embarked on a cross-continental journey, discarding his possessions and living in the rugged Alaskan wilderness, where he eventually died of starvation.
McCandless’ story was made famous by “Into the Wild,” a best-selling non-fiction book by adventure writer Jon Krakauer, published in 1996, that was made into a popular movie.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office found Croom’s car on Wednesday. David Croom, who is in Riddle to help in the search for his son, said residents there told him they’d noticed the abandoned vehicle as early as last weekend.
Dwes Hutson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, declined to comment on the case.
Croom said he had searched along remote roads for his son after getting a tip from a logger who said he had seen a young man with “the most amazing grin” walking with a woman two days earlier. Croom said he didn’t know who the woman might have been.
Private search groups and individuals have volunteered to help look for the missing teenager, including one group that offered to send in drones and horses.
Aside from a stint with the Boy Scouts of America, Croom said his son had little outdoors experience.
“He doesn’t really have the skill set for this,” he said.
Croom said his son had split up with his girlfriend a few weeks ago and that may have been weighing on his mind.
Croom described his son as 6’1″ and weighing 140 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes and may be carrying a multicolored backpack.
Croom said he was unaware of his son’s fascination with McCandless’ journey until after he went missing.
“The problem I have with that movie is that several kids have tried to emulate it, and what he was doing was dangerous,” said Croom. “The guy in the movie doesn’t make it.”