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Contact: Kris Fister, 907-683-9583
Today’s combined efforts of eleven ground teams and four aircraft failed to yield any new clues on the location of missing backpackers Abby Flantz and Erica Nelson. The teams were tasked with more thoroughly investigating specific segments within the search area, those sections that search managers feel are the most likely locations of the two hikers. More than 60 people were involved in today’s search effort, including more than 40 air and ground searchers and the overhead personnel who provide support and assistance to them.
Five new teams will be utilized in Wednesday’s efforts, in addition to the teams who have been involved in the previous days’ search. These resources include a team from the Anchorage based Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, and search and rescue teams from Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. Two fresh dog teams from the Alaska Search and Rescue Dog organization in Anchorage will replace the PAWS teams from Fairbanks in tomorrow’s search efforts.
With the influx of fresh new personnel ground searcher numbers will swell to approximately 60 people. The additional staffing will allow search managers to increase the size of the teams in high priority segments, which will allow them to search more thoroughly. Searchers will be placed on theground for the first time in some higher elevations of the search area, sections that have previously only been searched by air. These segments have steep, rocky and snow-covered sections, requiring searchers with high-angle rope skills?
The air search will continue with up to five helicopters and the park’s fixed-wing aircraft. The high-altitude Lama is available, but will be needed for a medical evacuation from the 14,200 foot camp on Mount McKinley as soon as weather conditions allow. A helicopter from the Bureau of Land Management Tanana Zone will be added to the three that were utilized in Tuesday’s operations.
During the past two days, helicopters assigned to the search have been temporarily diverted to assist with two medical incidents in the park. On Monday, June 16 an incident helicopter was needed to transport a 54 year old man experiencing medical problems from the Eielson Visitor Center to the park airstrip, where he was taken by ambulance to the Canyon Clinic. Another helicopter was needed today, June 17 to evacuate a 53-year old man who had a possible broken leg two miles up the trail on Mount Healy. He was flown to the Healy airstrip and transported to the Tri-Valley Clinic.
The National Park Service search managers would like to speak with anyone who was hiking in the Savage River drainage between Thursday, June 12 and Sunday, June 15. Anyone who may have information to share is asked to call (907) 683-9648.