Snowmachiner missing, search continues on Sunday
By McKibben Jackinsky
A missing 41-year-old snowmachiner from the southern Kenai Peninsula is the focus of a search headed by the Alaska State Troopers and assisted by Snomads, a Homer-based snowmachine club according to Alaska State Trooper David Chaffin of Detachment E, Anchor Point.
"Steven Craig was snowmachining last night (Friday) with a friend in the Caribou Hills," said Chaffin. "At about 6:20 p.m., he split up with his friend with the intent of traveling to Caribou Lake Lodge. His friend went home. About 40 minutes after splitting up, (Craig) contacted his wife and reported to her that he was low on fuel, didn't have survival supplies and he said something to the effect that the fog was bad and he was disoriented."
At that point, Craig's wife contacted family friends and several private parties went to the area where Craig was last seen. They searched through the night, but were unable to find Craig.
"In the morning they contacted the Snomads, who mobilized their personnel and we were notified shortly after that, probably 12 hours after he went missing," said Chaffin.
Air resources from Anchorage were requested to assist in the search, but due to weather conditions, it was impossible to get an aircraft to the search area. Later in the day, a helicopter from Pathfinder Aviation joined the effort but was unable to locate Craig.
"The last search team was out of the field a little after 7 p.m.," said Chaffin. "We were able to debrief teams and limit the search to the areas of highest probability. We'll be deploying to those areas tomorrow."
A briefing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sunday at the McNeil Canyon Fire Hall with searchers "going back into the field as soon as we have safe light conditions," said Chaffin.
Weather conditions on Saturday included a mixture of rain and snow.
"Everybody that had snowmachine clothing on was soaked and frozen basically," said Steve Parizek, Snomads president.
Rain is expected to continue through Saturday night and Sunday, with temperatures in the 30s and 40s, southeast winds from 10-30 miles per hour, according to a report from the National Weather Service. A flood watch also has been posted for the Southcentral Alaska, including the western Kenai Peninsula.
"Starting late on Saturday…there will likely be significant water overflow on area rivers and streams. This could lead to ponding and minor flooding in low lying areas throughout Southcentral Alaska," said the NWS report as of 12:12 p.m. Saturday.
Parizek encouraged anyone helping in the search to wear raingear and bright colors to increase visibility. He also requested that searchers park large vehicles and snowmachine-carrying trailers at McNeil Canyon Elementary School to avoid blocking the area around the fire station.
Anyone interested in helping with the search is urged to attend the Sunday morning briefing at the fire station.
"We want to get people signed in," said Parizek "We don't want searchers going willy-nilly and we don't want any lone riders out there. Riding is dangerous right now. It's very easy to get stuck."
Chaffin also urged anyone helping with the search to attend the briefing.
"We certainly don't want dozens of people going out with the intent of looking without an accountability of who is in the field," he said. "A big part of our job coordinating the search is doing it adequately and giving (Craig) the best chance of being found. We want to make sure we're doing the best we can for him." McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.