Updated 11:55 p.m. Monday
ANCHORAGE -- Search and rescue crews continued to comb Willow Creek looking for 71-year-old Jerry Warner of Missouri, who was last seen more than 24 hours ago fishing near Mile 70 of Parks Highway.
Alaska State Troopers and searchers from across the Mat-Su Valley region have been conducting a land, air and water search for Warner since he did not return as scheduled.
AST Sgt. Troy Shuey said Helo-3 made a slow visual sweep over the river early Monday but saw no sign of Warner. The helicopter's crew reported the water to be fairly clear in most areas and running normal to low. Another sweep was conducted in the afternoon without any luck.
In an email to Channel 2 Sunday evening, AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen said numerous teams were searching for Warner.
“We have a trooper on scene as well as searchers on foot and a Mat-Su Borough boat looking for (Warner),” Ipsen wrote. “He was last seen 12 hours ago headed out on foot with a fishing pole and waders to go fishing by himself.”
Theresa Dean at the Willow Creek Resort said troopers briefly suspended their search overnight Sunday but resumed efforts Monday.
“They were here until midnight doing everything they could,” Dean said. “They started again at about 5 a.m. They have dogs, and (were) getting equipment together and staging.”
The plan was the same Monday night heading into Tuesday, according to a trooper on scene.
In comments on Channel 2’s Facebook page, Meghan Dean posted a photo of Warner, confirmed by Ipsen to be in use during the search. She said Warner was last seen wearing a camouflage baseball cap, gray chest waders and a gray-and-black heavy waterproof jacket. He was carrying a walking stick.
“His plan was to go upstream from the Willow bridge looking for trout,” Meghan Dean wrote. “We are all tired up here from helping and we are using every avenue to reach out to people.”
Ipsen said search operations paused at about midnight, formally resuming with expanded search assets at about 5:30 a.m.
According to a Mat-Su Borough statement, Nathan Graber with Willow Fire and Rescue, the incident commander for the search, estimates that more than 40 people are currently participating in the search for Warner.
"Graber reports that five boats are searching Willow Creek, focusing on the downstream today," borough officials wrote. "He said up to eight search dogs from MATSAR, a local nonprofit search and rescue group, are working different areas. MATSAR also brought in ATVs for a ground search. Willow EMS is also searching."
Gary Klink, the Mat-Su Borough's chief of water rescue, says the search area is as difficult to traverse as it is to reach.
“It’s tough walking,” Klink said in the borough statement. “It’s typical Alaska terrain -- trees, brush, devil’s club, dense woods.”
Information from the scene, relayed to Ipsen by a trooper going off-duty after a 20-hour shift on the search, suggests Warner has minimal survival gear.
“He didn’t take anything else besides the fishing pole -- no phone, no weapons, not much food if any,” Ipsen said. “He was only supposed to go out for a few hours; he definitely wasn’t supposed to be out that long.”
Ipsen says troopers are hoping that Warner, who is visiting the state with his girlfriend in their recreational vehicle, simply got lost.
“He’s an experienced fisherman, he’s an experienced outdoorsman,” Ipsen said. “It’s not clear how much experience he has in Alaska.”
A Monday AST dispatch on the search says Warner frequently goes fishing alone. The couple's RV was parking at the resort.
"So far, no one has found any sign of Warner," troopers wrote.
Shuey, the trooper at the scene, says canine units are still working the river area. There has been light rain since Sunday night, which isn't expected to seriously affect dogs' abilities to find a scent unless it persists or increases. According to what Warner told his girlfriend, he was headed across the river and upstream.
Anyone with information on Warner’s whereabouts should call troopers at 907-352-5401.
Editor's note: An initial reference by Alaska State Troopers to Jerry Warner's female companion as his wife has been revised in subsequent reports.
Channel 2’s Austin Baird, Sarah Evans and Mallory Peebles contributed information to this story.