Alaska News

Hiker still missing in Nome area after overnight air and ground search

Update 6 a.m. Wednesday: Alaska State Troopers say Tuesday's search efforts in the Nome area failed to find missing hiker Joseph Balderas, 36, who was last seen Sunday.

Search efforts will continue Wednesday near Mile 44 of the Nome-Council Highway, where troopers said Balderas' vehicle was found after he didn't show up to work Monday. Aircraft flown by private operators as well as troopers, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service helped look for him Tuesday.

"Nearly two dozen volunteer ground searchers used ATVs and walked the search area," troopers wrote. "The search area was expanded by air crews and ATVs while searchers on foot concentrated on heavy brush areas near the vehicle."

A team of search dogs from Fairbanks PAWS are expected to arrive at the scene by midday Wednesday, troopers said.

Tuesday story:

A Nome man who didn't return from a weekend hiking trip in the area remains missing after a day of initial efforts to locate him.

Joseph Balderas, 36, was reported missing at about 9:30 a.m. Monday when he didn't show up at his workplace, troopers said in a dispatch.


"His vehicle was located at Mile 44 of the Nome-Council Highway, where it is believed Balderas was hiking and mountain running," troopers wrote.

Members of the Nome Volunteer Fire Department responded to the area on all-terrain vehicles, with air support from a chartered helicopter carrying Nome search-and-rescue spotters. Troopers sent a Super Cub aircraft, and the U.S. Coast Guard deployed an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from its newly established seasonal base in Kotzebue.

According to a Coast Guard statement Monday night, Balderas had last been seen Sunday. Weather in the search area included partly cloudy skies, with a temperature of 49 degrees and 9 mph winds.

Staff members at the Coast Guard's command center for District 17, covering Alaska, said Tuesday morning that two Jayhawks had launched starting at 8 a.m. to help resume the search, which was being coordinated by troopers.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email Tuesday that the Coast Guard crews were set to fly a morning and an afternoon search pattern. Nome searchers met at the fire department at 7 a.m. before heading into the field.

In addition, an updated trooper dispatch Tuesday said a Robinson R-44 helicopter would be deployed with two spotters, along with the trooper Super Cub aircraft. A mobile communications station had been established to help coordinate search efforts for Balderas.

As of Tuesday evening around 7:30, Nome fire chief Jim West said helicopters remained in the air and ground teams were continuing to search for Balderas. A team was also floating the Solomon River, he said, to make sure nothing was overlooked.

A total of 66 people had participated as the search efforts stretched into the 12th hour on Tuesday, West said.

"We're still looking," he said.

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.