UPDATE: Bodies of missing hikers found, identified by authorities

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - July 3 Update:

Rochelle Renken (Courtesy Tonya Shoesmith)
Rochelle Renken (Courtesy Tonya Shoesmith)

The bodies of the two missing hikers have been found and recovered, with the deceased couple now identified by authorities.

According to the National Park Service rangers, 62-year old Rochelle Renken and 62-year old Michael Huffman, both from Columbia, Missouri, were found and recovered along the Sanford River in the national park.

The deaths are reportedly accidental and investigators do not suspect foul play.

"The couple were experienced backpackers and Renken has been to Alaska several times in the past and had previous experience crossing Alaskan rivers," NPS wrote in a statement.

They were last seen on June 22 when they were dropped off by their chartered plane. Their backpacks were later found near a river, with nearby footprints "indicative of two people preparing for a river crossing."

The packs were thought to have become stranded in a dry channel along the river when water levels receded on Saturday.

The bodies were first spotted on Sunday evening, July 1, according to Margie Steigerwald, spokesperson with NPS. Searchers recovered the bodies on Monday afternoon, July 2.

Original Story:

The search for two missing hikers has been scaled back after aerial and ground crews discovered two gear-filled backpacks and other items near a river the two were dropped off near over a week ago.

The two hikers, who have not been identified by authorities, were visiting Alaska from Missouri for a hiking trip, when they failed to arrive at their destination.

"Ground searchers did see footprints near the glacier that matched the tread of a boot that was found about a mile down river," the National Parks Service stated in a release. "The gear was found along a seven mile stretch of the Sanford River."

They were dropped off by an air taxi service on June 22, planning to hike for six days from the Sanford River across the Dadina Plateau, ending their trip at the Dadina River on June 27. They never showed up.

The NPS release states that, following an exhaustive search including two helicopters and multiple park service search crews, the backpacks, and other backpacking items, were found, but that "no additional sign of survivors" were present.

The search has now been scaled back, NPS reports, after weather deteriorated on Saturday afternoon, moving ground crews out of the field. A park pilot plans to continue searching the Sanford River area, where the backpacks were found, for the next few days as weather permits.

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