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Search for Mt. Marathon racer continues without troopers

Casey Grove

Despite an announcement by Alaska State Troopers they'd canceled their search for missing Mount Marathon racer Michael LeMaitre, who vanished Wednesday during the annual Independence Day event, volunteers and local firefighters plan to push on starting Monday.

"We've never had a rescue on the mountain where we haven't found somebody," Seward Fire Chief Dave Squires said Sunday. "It's kind of depressing we didn't succeed the first day, the second day the third day ... This community wants to get Mr. LeMaitre home."

LeMaitre, a 66-year-old Anchorage resident, was last seen near the top of the mountain, a turnaround spot in the popular race that sends racers from downtown Seward, up the 3,022-foot peak, and back down. A search that grew to include 65 people, including skilled mountaineers, tracking dogs and their handlers, a helicopter and its crew, failed to find LeMaitre after four days. Troopers announced late Saturday that their personnel and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group had given up looking for the man after finding no trace of him or his last direction of travel.

Six searchers were injured, though only in minor ways, Squires said, including fatigue in at least one case. The volunteers took a break Sunday to rest, he said.

Squires said the fire department would continue the search effort by first compiling all the information gathered so far -- including high-resolution photos of the mountain -- while starting to take names and phone numbers for anyone interested in helping through the week. There was no set time to pick up the search again, but more information would be forthcoming, Squires said.

The plan is to start looking at "hot spots," places that have either not be eliminated thus far or snowy places in chutes on the mountain that might have swallowed LeMaitre, Squires said.

Those include snow bridges that may have collapsed with melting snow underneath, Squires said.

"We assumed he'd be going up the up trail and down the down trail. We've looked in those areas, and some others, and gotten nothing," Squires said. "The mountain's been covered from the very bottom to the very top. It's a mystery right now where he is."


By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News