U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft of Washington, Connecticut, was reported missing last month after he set out on a solo ski and hiking trip on Feb. 24 near the Kearsarge Pass Trailhead, more than 100 miles east of Fresno. He was scheduled to complete his trek by March 4, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.
An extensive, multi-agency search began on March 4, when Kraft’s father alerted law enforcement officials that he had not heard from his son. The search included cell phone forensics, which showed that Kraft’s last phone activity was in Inyo County.
The Marine Corps, nearly a dozen county sheriff’s departments, crews from two national parks and the California Highway Patrol assisted in the search of the 195-mile Sierra High Route in Central Sierra Nevada.
On Saturday, March 16, law enforcement officials in Inyo County announced that they were moving the search for Kraft to a “limited continuous mode.”
“Backcountry snow instability and weather issues, including high winds, have been a significant challenge for search crews,” the Sheriff’s Office announced. “Both aerial and ground searches have identified avalanche activity, cornices, and snow bridges throughout the wilderness, including along the Sierra High Route. The search zone has been determined to be larger than the state of Rhode Island.
“Aerial reconnaissance and ground teams have been deployed to the search area; however to date there have been no substantiated clues that link Kraft to any particular search area.”
Kraft’s vehicle was located on March 8 in the Grays Meadows campground above Independence, California.
According to investigators, an aircraft with thermal and night vision imagery capabilities has been flying the route and while several points of interest have been identified – all have been investigated and determined to be animal related. Search crews also employed RECCO technology, an electronic device to find people buried in an avalanche.
Search and rescue authorities have been unable to locate evidence of Kraft’s location along his planned route, officials noted.
Beginning Monday, March 18, InciWeb, the Incident Information System being used to relay regular updates, will go into inactive status, investigators noted.
“The Marine Corps, along with the other assisting agencies, will continue to stand by and support Kraft's family, friends, and Marines during this difficult time. If you were in the search area on or around Feb. 23, and you think you might have seen Kraft, please call 559-565-4286.”
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