A massive multi-agency search in the Sierra Nevada has been underway for more than a week to locate missing U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft, a 24-year-old man from Washington, Conn.
To date, there have been no clues that link Kraft to any part of the search area. An area that search and rescue teams have deemed to be larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Aircraft using thermal and night vision imagery have investigated several points of interest but determined that they were animal related. Search crews also employed RECCO technology, an electronic device to find people buried in an avalanche.
On Saturday the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks public information officer said the day's update would be the last unless new information becomes available.
Anyone with information regarding Kraft’s whereabouts should immediately contact one of the following:
- Inyo County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 878-0383, option 4
- Mono County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 932-7549, option 7
- Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at (559) 600-8400
- Itinerary - Lt. Kraft’s itinerary was the Sierra High Route, which included hiking out of Kearsarge Pass on Feb 24h and hiking out near the Twin Lakes area by Bridgeport on March 4 or 5.
- March 4: Reported missing - On March 4 Lt. Kraft’s father contacted Mono Sheriff after not hearing from his son. Cell phone forensics initiated by Mono County Sheriff's Office showed that Lt. Kraft's last phone activity was in the Independence, Calif. area in Inyo County.
- March 5: The search begins - Inyo County Sheriff’s Office Search begin a search. Winter storms in the Sierra have make searching activities extremely difficult.
- March 8: Jeep found - Lt. Kraft’s Jeep is found by Inyo Search and Rescue at 9:00 p.m. on March 8 near Lower Grays Meadows, above Independence, Calif.
- March 9: Sixth day searching - Seven Inyo Search and Rescue volunteers searched the upper sections of Onion Valley Road west of Independence, Calif. for Lt. Kraft. The team reached about 8,000 feet, about two miles from the Kearsarge trailhead, and saw that recent avalanche debris was covering the road, Inyo County Sheriff's spokeswoman Carma Roper said. Due to avalanche concerns, the team decided that it would be too risky to proceed. Aerial search crews noted several significant avalanches throughout the Sierra backcountry and along the Sierra High Route that Lt. Kraft would have been on during his trek.
March 10: Search now air-based - The search will be primarily air-based as crews work to find First Lt. Matthew Kraft. Due to snow instability and avalanche concerns, the ground search has proven to be too dangerous, the Inyo County Sheriff's Office said. In addition to aerial support that has been helping through the week, Sequoia and Kings National Park will also provide a helicopter.
March 16: Search downgraded - On Saturday the search operation transitioned to a "limited continuous search status," until Kraft is found, according to Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks public information officer. To date, there have been no clues that link Kraft to any part of the search area.
As the department first mentioned on March 9, backcountry snow instability and weather issues, including high winds, have been a significant challenge for search crews. Both aerial and ground searches have identified avalanche activity, cornices, and snow bridges throughout the wilderness, including along the Sierra High Route that Lt. Kraft would have been on.
The search zone has been determined to be larger than the state of Rhode Island and consists of the 195-mile Sierra High Route as well as "multiple points of potential exit," according to Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks public information officer.
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.
The InciWeb site being used to relay updates will go inactive on Monday, March 18. For now, that link is: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6272/