As efforts to find a missing Nome man enter their fourth day, his loved ones have crowdfunded tens of thousands of dollars online to help keep searchers in the field.
Alaska State Troopers said in a dispatch that almost two dozen people on ATVs were deployed Wednesday near Mile 44 of the Nome-Council Highway to look for 36-year-old Joseph Balderas, along with air support from troopers, the National Park Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and a chartered helicopter.
"Three dog teams from Fairbanks PAWS responded to Nome and immediately deployed to the area," troopers wrote. "There was some indication, however, the scent was quickly lost."
Balderas was last seen Sunday and was reported missing when he failed to show up for work Monday after a hiking trip. His vehicle was subsequently found along the highway.
Although Wednesday marked the end of the Coast Guard and the chartered helicopter's participation in the search, troopers said the search has not been suspended and will resume Thursday.
Wednesday also marked the launch of a YouCaring site to support the search, with organizer Reba Lean asking for $30,000 in donations "to help with the high cost of aerial search efforts and other expenses in rural Alaska." By Thursday morning the site had already reached its goal, with $34,574 pledged by more than 180 people.
"Depending on the outcome of the search, funds may be used for family travel, medical and search expenses," Lean wrote in an email. "Excess funding will be donated to local search and rescue organizations."
Lean told Nome radio station KNOM — which called the search-and-rescue operation for Balderas one of the city's largest in decades — that the group was also seeking airline miles, housing and transportation to help. A Facebook group called Finding Joseph has also been formed to coordinate donations and updates on the search.