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Troopers locate missing Fort Yukon man but still search for German

Craig Medred

A lost hiker has been found alive in Alaska, but it's not the one in which the whole world seems interested. Thomas Seibold, a German adventurer from Wisconsin who disappeared weeks ago in the western Brooks Range in the far northwest corner of the 49th state remains missing. But Alaska State Troopers reported searchers have found 56-year-old Raymond Carroll from Fork Yukon, a riverside village north of the city of Fairbanks.

Carroll was reported missing early Sunday evening. A trooper dispatch said he was seen "riding a borrowed snowmachine and very intoxicated." Villagers went looking for him when he didn't come home that night and notified troopers when he hadn't appeared by the next morning. Troopers organized a broader search with the help of the Civil Air Patrol, the Alaska Air National Guard and the Fort Yukon Tribal Council.

They focused on trails in the immediate area of the village. The small search area made the search much easier. The Air National Guard's Pavehawk helicopter spotted the snowmachine about five miles outside the community not long after the search began. Tracks leading away from it indicated where Carroll had started hiking. The Guard followed the tracks to Carroll, according to troopers, who said he was later picked up by ground searchers, hauled back to Fort Yukon, examined and sent home.

Seibold, searchers say, is lost in a vast wilderness area without trails, and officials have about run out of ideas of where to look for him. A survival instructor from a Wisconsin school that teaches old, American Indians skills, he was on a spiritual journey into the Alaska wild. His disappearance has attracted national and international attention. The Daily Mail Tuesday reported friends of Seibold are confident he remains alive.

But the search for him is not expected to continue much longer, given searchers really don't know where to look. The obvious routes from the cabin where Seibold was staying on the Ambler River to the village of Kobuk, where he planned to catch a flight home, have been examined. There was no sign of the missing man. Search and rescue professionals say they now need at least some new clue of where to look so they can focus search efforts. A trooper in Kotzebue noted it is near impossible to effectively search hundreds of square miles of wilderness. Searches are more successful when rescuers have some idea of where to go.

Only about 100 miles west of where the search for Seibold centered, troopers reported the pilot of a commercial air taxi on Saturday found a group of villagers who'd gone missing on a trip to the Kobuk River village of Noorvik.

Arthur Coffin, 47, and George Melton, 45, left the regional hub of Kotzebue headed home to Noorvik on a red, Honda four-wheeler, troopers said. When the men failed to show up, authorities were notified.

"Bering Air (a commercial airline) was contacted and asked to be look out for the travelers as they flew their regularly scheduled flight between Kotzebue and Noorvik," troopers reported. "At approximately 8:50 a.m., Bering Air reported seeing two men and a four-wheeler fitting the description at a camp on the Kobuk River approximately 18 miles downriver from Noorvik. Family members from Noorvik were notified and went to the camp to assist. Everyone involved returned to Noorvik unharmed."

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com