Wednesday searches of Willow Creek have not yielded any signs of a Missouri man missing for more than three days, as search assets in the area shift from land-based efforts to a deeper focus on the creek itself.
Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen says about 15 to 20 people, down from 40 earlier this week, remain committed to finding Richland, Mo. resident Jerry Warner. The 71-year-old was last seen Sunday morning leaving a recreational vehicle at the Willow Creek Resort on a solo walk to the creek, carrying a fishing pole but neither a cellphone nor a weapon.
“They’re using underwater cameras to sweep the deeper areas of the creek and pools,” Ipsen said. “They have searched the creek -- they’re just checking the deep spots now.”
AST’s Helo-3 isn’t expected to return to the creek Wednesday, where it had previously conducted overflights of the area, and all-terrain vehicles have been impeded by heavy foliage. Ipsen says some crews with search dogs are continuing to check shoreline areas for Warner.
“They’re still searching the land, too,” Ipsen said. “Because of the vegetation, it’s hard to do an aerial search of the land.”
According to Ipsen, Wednesday’s work hasn’t been classified as either a search or a recovery operation.
“It’s still considered both,” Ipsen said. “The biggest part of the search, and what’s going to get results, are the people on the land and the water.”
Ipsen dismissed Facebook rumors Wednesday afternoon that the search for Warner had been called off, confirming that Mat-Su Borough divers had been released from the scene after conducting a thorough underwater search of the area.
Several other agencies remain involved with the search, and Ipsen says a member of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group is heading up the interagency management team overseeing operations.
“There are still a lot of volunteers,” Ipsen said.