Teenage hiker missing on Mount McGinnis

16-year-old believed to have gone in direction of rifle range

Posted: Thursday, July 02, 2009

Rescue groups are searching for a 16-year-old Juneau boy who became separated from friends while hiking on Mount McGinnis.

Alaska State Troopers received a call at about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday that one of three teenagers hiking on the mountain near the Mendenhall Glacier was separated from the group and lost. The boy had not been located as of press time Wednesday night.

"Evidently his backpack slid down the back side and he went after it," Trooper Jeff Landvatter said Wednesday evening. "He hasn't been seen since."

The boy is believed to have gone in the direction of the Hank Harmon Rifle Range near Montana Creek Road, Landvatter said.

The two other teenagers stood by waiting for their friend after he went to retrieve his backpack before calling out and hearing no response. After about a half-hour, one boy used a cell phone to call for help.

The troopers, SEADOGS, Juneau Mountain Rescue and Temsco Helicopters conducted the search Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Due to poor visibility, rescuers were dropped off part way up the mountain and hiked to near the summit, where they located the two other teenagers at around 5 p.m. The two boys were escorted off the mountain Wednesday evening, Landvatter said.

"Everybody else is safe and in good shape," he said.

The Juneau Police Department helped patrol the Montana Creek area Wednesday and the U.S. Coast Guard and Capital City Fire and Rescue have been alerted and are on standby if needed.

The decision was made around 9 p.m. to pull the rescue teams off the 4,228-foot mountain for the evening. A two-person team was sent Wednesday night to the back side of the mountain to stay overnight with the intention of continuing the search at first light today, Landvatter said. Some Good Samaritans stayed overnight at the top of the mountain.

"We've got some additional searchers that we're going to gear up that will also be going out at first light," he said.

The search team planned to use a Forward Looking Infrared system - a handheld device that uses thermal energy detection that can detect body heat - with the assistance of a Northstar Trekking helicopter until about 1 a.m. today.

The missing teen was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt and green shorts.

"There is a concern about hypothermia as the search goes on," Landvatter said.

Anyone with information on the missing boy should immediately call JPD at 586-0600 or the state troopers at 465-4000.

"We're just going to continue hitting it as hard as we can for as long as we can," Landvatter said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or by e-mail at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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