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Unofficial search continues for missing Fairbanks volunteer

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published October 19, 2011

The search for a searcher who died continues in the mountains north of Fairbanks. Though official efforts have been called off, friends of 53-year-old Gerald DeBerry say they are continuing to probe the south slopes of the White Mountains in hopes of finding his body.

DeBerry was discovered missing Oct. 9 as Alaska State Troopers were wrapping up a successful search for missing all-terrain-vehicle driver Melinda "Mindy" Straetz from Utah. DeBerry, a friend of Straetz, had been among those looking for her.

Days of searching for him followed Straetz's rescue, but searchers found nothing even after calling in military helicopters with heat-sensing equipment that should have made it easy to detect a warm body in a landscape where night temperatures were dropping into the low 20s. Friends say they've accepted that DeBerry must have died in the wilderness off the remote Steese Highway, but they are baffled as to how his 600-pound, six-foot-long four-wheeler could have vanished.

They had been expecting to find it on a trail in the area, but as yet it has not turned up. DeBerry appears to be the first to rescuer to perish in an Alaska search and rescue (SAR) mission since National Park Service ranger Mike Vanderbeek fell to his death on Mount McKinley in 1998.

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