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ANCHORAGE - State troopers are using a helicopter with heat-seeking equipment today to find a rookie musher who disappeared five days ago while competing in a 200-mile sled dog race.
Rod Boyce, who was competing for the first time in the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race, was last seen a few minutes after midnight Saturday when he was the last musher to pass through a checkpoint.
Boyce was on a straight swampy stretch that rises into hills. He never made it to the next checkpoint, 18 miles away.
A helicopter with heat-seeking, infrared equipment flew the trail in the Caribou Hills of the Kenai Peninsula looking for any sign of Boyce.
``As soon as the infrared touches him, we will have him,'' said trooper John Brown, overseeing the search.
The heat-seeking equipment, however, won't work if Boyce and his dog team are covered in snow. The area has received more than 8 feet of snow in the past week.
The helicopter, which arrived Wednesday from Anchorage, searched for three hours Wednesday night. More than 30 snowmachiners and a maritime helicopter also were looking today for the 38-year-old musher from Two Rivers.
``Ten dogs and a person disappear at once... It seems like we should have seen something,'' trooper Sgt. Jim Hibpshman, commander of the Homer post, said late Wednesday.
Boyce, who is the city editor for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, had 10 dogs when he was last seen by race officials. He was carrying all the survival equipment required in the race, including a heavy sleeping bag and an ax. He was carrying enough food for him and the dogs for two days.
Snowmachiners began their search Sunday night but blizzard conditions prevented an air search until Tuesday.
Boyce's wife, Julie Stricker, was staying in Kenai to be near race officials if any word came in, said Kathy Montgomery, whose home is used as race central. She said the couple had stayed at her house for the two nights prior to the start of the race.
``He was excited to do it but apprehensive. The terrain here was something he'd never done before,'' she said.
Brown said Stricker described her husband as a careful, methodical person not prone to taking risks. He probably took a wrong turn in blizzard conditions early Sunday morning and found himself lost on one of the many snowmachiner trials in the area.
If it was very cold, he could pull one of the smaller dogs into the sled with him to keep warm, Brown said.
Montgomery said when she talked to Stricker Wednesday morning her voice sounded strong.
``As long as she has hope in her voice, I am going to have hope in mine,'' she said.