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Marine Corps Lt. goes missing during hike

A missing Marine Corps lieutenant, out on a hike, has prompted an intense multi-agency search in the Kearsarge Pass area of California.

As stated in a news release on the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office social media page, Lt. Matthew Kraft’s journey began last month as he embarked on the hike along the Sierra High Route, approximately 195 miles in length, through the Sierra Nevada range.

“Lt. Kraft’s itinerary was the Sierra High Route, which included hiking out of Kearsarge Pass on Feb 24th and hiking out near the Twin Lakes area by Bridgeport on March 4th or 5th,” the posting stated. “On March 4th, Lt. Kraft’s father contacted the Mono County Sheriff’s Office after not hearing from his son.”

The release went on to state that the Mono County Sheriff’s Office began checking trailheads in the Bridgeport area on March 4.

Cell phone forensics initiated by the sheriff’s office showed that his last phone activity was in the Independence area.

As a result, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue began a search on March 5, but winter storms in the Sierra have made search activities extremely difficult.

Both ground and aerial reconnaissance teams have been used and will continue the search as weather permits.

“Inyo County Search and Rescue members deployed what’s known as a Snowcat to rope-tow search and rescue team members on skis up to the Onion Valley parking area, just above Independence CA,” the release noted. “Search and Rescue team members will clear as much area as possible on Kearsarge Pass. Team members will work as long as weather permits.”

A Snowcat is a vehicle specially designed to rescue those stranded in the snow.

Additionally, the release stated that the area known as Onion Valley Road is currently closed for the winter and impassable due to heavy snow and rock fall.

In order to access the search area, the snowcat was utilized to transport the search and rescue teams.

“The team reached about 8,000 feet, approximately two miles from the Kearsarge Trailhead, where recent avalanche debris was observed covering the road,” the release stated. “Other smaller avalanches were also observed in several chutes across the road. 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. Searches will be primarily air-based. Ground searching has proven to be too dangerous due to snow instability and avalanche concerns. Sequoia and Kings National Park will also be providing a helicopter.”

Individuals with any information regarding Kraft’s whereabouts should immediately contact the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office at 760-878-0383, option 4; the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at 760-932-7549/ option 7; or the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at 559-600-8400.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com, on Twitter: @pvtimes

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