Dec. 29–UPDATE: A search in the Alaska wilderness, in which one Woodward man participated with his battle buddies to find their brother in arms, has been officially called off until weather conditions improve.
Former Marine and Woodward High School graduate Justin Kuehn spent nearly two weeks in Alaska this month in the massive search for Kuehn’s best friend and former battle partner Casey Graham.
Graham disappeared December 9th after going out on his snow machine to break a trail for the ‘ Toys for Tots program. He never returned that evening and a search was initiated that included Graham’s best friend Kuehn and 12 other brothers who simply wanted to bring home their brother for a proper burial, they said.
Despite finding his snow machine and his helmet near the Kuskokwin River, officials indicated there was no evidence of self rescue after it appeared that Graham had run his snow machine accidentally into an open lead in the river.
Battling continued weather problems and a fast current under the ice in the river, officials have temporarily suspended the search while they wait for better weather conditions, according to G.W. Burnham of the Alaska Native News.
“They tried using a remote control vehicle and after they failed with that and still couldn’t locate him, they suspended the search for now,” Burnham said. “The Kuskowi River is totally frozen over now except some occasional open leads.”
The group of Marines made their way back home discouraged but glad they tried to help find Graham. According to Kuehn, their experience with the locals who live in McGrath was something they will never forget.
“Some of the locals I think are doing some things (still searching),” said Kuehn’s mother Kristy Kuehn. “The guys have talked about going back when they start the search again. But for now, for sure keep them in your thoughts.”
(c)2015 The Woodward News (Woodward, Okla.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Dec 17– UPDATE: the personnel in the ground in McGrath are asking for more search support. McGrath is not easy to get to and it is difficult to get large numbers of people out there quickly to assist. If you know anyone that is interested in assisting with the search in McGrath, please comment below or send a message to us via our facebook page.
Dec 16 — Four days after an Anchorage man was reported overdue from a snowmachine trip near McGrath, searchers have recovered his vehicle — but not his body — from the Kuskokwim River.
Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said the recovery effort for 24-year-old continued Monday afternoon.
Troopers in McGrath, a community of about 310 people roughly 270 miles southwest of Fairbanks, were alerted Thursday afternoon that Graham hadn’t returned; an aerial search found his snowmachine slightly north of theMcGrath airport, in the main channel of the Kuskokwim, shortly afterward.
“An (underwater remotely operated vehicle) was used this weekend, but the slushy conditions and fast water current made the tool not very effective,” Peters wrote. “We have also flown over the area to see if a bird’s-eye view would help us out. So far nothing.”
Bethel Search and Rescue said in a weekend post that it was providing assistance to the search for Graham, with team member Sam Samuelson sent to the scene.
“(Graham) drove into an open lead just around the bend from McGrath while enroute to Takotna,” Bethel SAR officials wrote. “It has been a long time since an under-ice recovery effort has been conducted in that area.”
Mike Riley, Bethel SAR’s president, was awaiting word Monday on the results of morning search efforts. He praised the array of local volunteers involved in the search for Graham.
“There’s a lot of good help up there,” Riley said.
Bethel SAR members have also been trying to warn people of open water along the Kuskokwim and other rivers in the region, coordinating with villagers to mark open leads.
Since the recovery of Graham’s snowmachine, Riley said the river has also surrendered other signs of the missing man.
“Unfortunately, they have found his helmet — that’s one of the pieces they’ve found so far,” Riley said.
(c)2015 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska) – www.adn.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.