SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Bodies of Missing Hikers Found in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve


July 09, 2018
Monday PM

(SitNews) Copper Center, Alaska - Last week National Park Service rangers recovered the bodies of two hikers along the Sanford River in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Preliminary identification by NPS law enforcement matches that of two backpackers that were last seen on June 22 when they were dropped off by an air taxi operator at the Sanford Glacier airstrip less than two miles from where the bodies were found.

The backpackers were 62-year old Rochelle Renken and 62-year old Michael Huffman, both from Columbia, Missouri. The couple were experienced backpackers and Renken has been to Alaska several times in the past and had previous experience crossing Alaskan rivers. Positive identification is pending from the State Medical Examiner. The deaths appear to be accidental. No foul play is suspected.

jpg Bodies of Missing Hikers Found in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a United States national park and national preserve managed by the National Park Service in south central Alaska. 

After the hikers failed to make their airstrip pick-up at the Dadina River on June 27 and missed two pre-planned satellite phone calls with the air taxi service, the service notified the National Park Service. The NPS initiated an intensive aerial and ground search for the couple on June 27. By June 28 there were 27 people and five aircraft involved in the search for the missing couple. By the end of June, search crews found footprints along the Sanford River where it emerges from the Sanford Glacier. The footprints were indicative of two people preparing for a river crossing.

Over the 1st of July weekend, search crews found two backpacks and other backpacking gear strewn along a seven mile stretch of the Sanford River downriver from the Sanford Glacier and the location of the footprints. Water levels in the Sanford River receded that weekend leaving items stranded in dry channels along the river. Based on the evidence that was found by searchers, it appears that the couple attempted to cross the Sanford River near the toe of the glacier and were swept away by the powerful, glacial river.

The National Park Service reminds backpackers that river crossings are always dangerous and that rivers and streams that are sometimes passable become impassable, even for experts, after rain events or on sunny days with rapid glacial melt.



Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews



Source of News:

National Park Service


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