UPDATE: Body of missing hiker found
The body of Michael Hansen was found by searchers earlier today (09/23/16). Thirty-seven year-old Hansen was a former Army ranger and moved to Sitka earlier this summer.
Hansen’s family has been notified of his death. The investigation is ongoing.
Update 3: Sitka’s Search and Rescue team is looking for additional help as the search for Michael Hansen continues through the weekend. The 37 year-old was last seen on the Mt. Verstovia trail Monday morning (9-19-16).
Search captain Lance Ewers said more than fifty people have been involved in the effort so far.
“We’ve had the US Forest Service, we’ve had the Alaska State Troopers, the Sitka Police Department, all the volunteers from all the different divisions of the Fire Hall, and community members.”
While weather has been wet and windy the last few days, Ewers says that hasn’t stopped people from showing up and helping out every day this week..
“We’ve been going up and down and up and down and through the brush and pouding brush and it is tiring work,” Ewers explained, “so we’re at the point where we sure can use some help.”
Each search party is equipped with a global positioning system. At the end of every day, Ewers said the GPS tracks are overlaid on a map of the mountain.
Ewers urged interested volunteers to first report to the Fire Hall to prevent duplicated efforts.
“If there are folks familiar with the Indian River drainage area as well as Verstovia Mountain and they’re able and willing to come down to our Fire Hall here and receive an assignment that would deeply appreciated.”
Ewers said the search will continue until every possible route up the mountain is covered.
Update 2: Despite today’s (9-22-16) bad weather, search and rescue crews continued to look for Michael Hansen, last seen Monday on the Mt. Verstovia Trail.
High winds kept most searchers off the mountain this morning. But they resumed their efforts this afternoon.
Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters says searchers, including dog teams from Juneau and Sitka, have found no sign of Hansen.
At one point, a searcher spotted an object that appeared to be out of place in an avalanche chute. But Sitka Search and Rescue’s Karen Royce says it didn’t turn out to be anything that could help locate the missing man.
She says crews will continue looking for Hansen on Friday (9-23-16) . She says they’ve already covered a large area of ground.
The 37-year old former Army ranger is described as 5 feet, 9 inches tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with a short, military-style haircut. His eyes and hair are brown.
Update: Searchers today (9-22-16) continued looking for a Sitka man last seen Monday on the Mt. Verstovia Trail.
Sitka Search and Rescue says crews were out this morning, trying to locate 37-year-old Michael Hansen. But the weather hampered the effort and searchers were expected to come down the mountain while a storm passed through.
No helicopters were flying today.
Earlier report: Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said hikers saw 37-year-old Michael Hansen on the steep, 2½-mile trail.
“We do know that he’s not well-dressed to spend a substantial amount of time in the outdoors, wearing street clothes and having a backpack with him,” she said. “But when you’re outside for longer than your planned quick day-hike, things can always get a bit hairy, especially when it’s cooler at nighttime.”
The National Weather Service predicts strong winds and heavy rain as a major storm moves in Thursday. Temperatures are expected to be in the 50s or the upper 40s.
Hansen is described as 5 feet, 9 inches tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with a short, military-style haircut. He has brown hair and brown eyes. Officials said he’s only been in town since July.
Peters said troopers are working with Sitka Search and Rescue, search dogs from Sitka and Juneau, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“We do have ground searchers out again [Wednesday] going in and looking in the area as best as they can. The U.S. Coast Guard has supplied a helicopter to help ferry searchers going back and forth. And they’re also flying over the area to try to keep an eye out. And hopefully, they’ll be able to find him,” she said.
She said searchers would decide what to do next after comparing notes following Wednesday’s search effort.
Anyone with relevant information is asked to call troopers at (907) 465-4000, Sitka Search and Rescue at 966-5770 or the Sitka Fire Department at 747-3233.