KOTZEBUE, Alaska (KTUU) - The on-the-ground search for a 10-year-old Kotzebue girl missing since Thursday is moving further out of town and out of the scope of volunteer searchers Alaska State Troopers told Channel 2 Wednesday.
Ashley Barr-Johnson, last seen at a Kotzebue park Thursday evening, vanished seemingly without a trace. State Troopers and FBI agents have joined the search in the Alaska hub community north of the Arctic Circle. Wednesday, dive teams took to local bodies of water, and searches expanded to coastal areas of the community.
Tuesday, Troopers told reporters that only areas with reason to be searched were being searched at that time, as dozens of law enforcement officers, search officials and community volunteers came together to find the girl, now missing for six days. By Wednesday, a Trooper spokesperson said the areas needing to be searched were getting to be outside the scope of what could safely be done by volunteers.
By the end of Wednesday, “we do expect search and rescue teams made up of volunteers will have covered the vast majority of the area that they are capable of,” said Jonathon Taylor, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety.
Taylor said the ground search was continuing with ATVs, vehicles, and aircraft, and dive teams have taken to Kotzebue Sound and some other bodies of water in and around Kotzebue.
Taylor emphasized that the operation is still considered a search and rescue. “As we’re working with our search and rescue personnel, we’re asking them to search for her as if she’s still alive because we’d like her to be safely reunited with her loved ones,” Taylor said.
Two additional FBI agents reached Kotzebue Wednesday, Taylor said, indicating that there’s no talk now of scaling back the search. That makes 17 FBI agents from Alaska and the Lower 48, in addition to 10 Alaska State Troopers, 3 Kotzebue Police officers, and other federal and local agencies.
Barr-Johnson’s father, Walter “Scotty” Barr, said he became concerned when Ashley didn’t make it home before dark Thursday evening, with her normal curfew set at 8:30 p.m.
Barr said he had extreme gratitude to all the people who have given their time and traveled to Kotzebue to search for his daughter.
Channel 2's Sean Maguire contributed to this report from Kotzebue.