Thursday, Aug 11, 2005
The park has begun an air and ground search for a missing backpacker, Richard Hasbell, 34, of Anchorage, Alaska. There are almost 30 people currently assigned to the search effort, which is focusing on an area surrounding what is believed to be Hasbell's abandoned campsite in the Kantishna Hills at the 4,000 foot elevation, about five miles northeast of Wonder Lake. On Friday, August 5th, the park received information from a pilot with Kantishna Air Taxi that during one of his flights in the area he had spotted a tent that appeared to be abandoned inside the park east of Kantishna. A check of backcountry permits the next day revealed that Hasbell had received a permit for a planned backpacking trip into the park on July 10th for a unit adjacent to the area in which the tent was located. It was also determined that Hasbell had been issued a bear-resistant food canister (BRFC), which had not been returned after his planned exit from the park on July 18th. This is not unusual, as some backpackers forget to return the canisters and wilderness users are not required to "check-in" as they exit the park. Due to the NPS response to the small plane accident with two fatalities that occurred on Friday, August 5th, and the subsequent investigation over the weekend, park rangers were not able to fly to the abandoned campsite to begin the investigation until Monday, August 8th. After arriving at the site, rangers confirmed that the number on the BRFC was the same as the one checked out to Hasbell and that the tent color listed on the permit matched the one at the campsite. NPS special agents contacted Hasbell's next-of-kin, who reported that they had not seen or heard from Hasbell since his scheduled trip to the park, although no missing person report had been filed with the park or Alaska authorities. Additional evidence found in his Anchorage residence indicates that he has been away for a significant period of time. Hasbell has been described as physically fit, but it is not known at this time how familiar he was with the area or how much backcountry experience he has. He is a white male, 6 feet tall and weighing 195 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. Investigators are interviewing employees and visitors throughout the park and in the Anchorage area to develop additional intelligence of Hasbell's whereabouts. Air and ground search efforts on Tuesday centered on the area surrounding Hasbell's campsite, and rangers continued combing the site for evidence. Three aircraft were dedicated to the air search. Plans to make the most effective use of ground crews were completed on Tuesday and additional searchers began searching by foot on Wednesday. Efforts are being coordinated with the Alaska State Troopers. The park is asking anyone who might have information about Hasbell's whereabouts or his activities since July 4th to call 907-683-9500.