Alaska News

Family of missing Colorado man gathers in Alaska to help find him

Almost a dozen family members have flown thousands of miles to help find a man who went missing on the Kenai River on Friday.

The relatives of Phillip Keltner, 63, have been mobilizing in Soldotna since the Colorado man went missing in an accident while fishing on the river last week.

His brother and sister, their spouses and his adult children all quickly boarded flights from Colorado and California, according to his daughter, Missy Keltner, who arrived in Alaska from Los Angeles on Sunday.

She said the family is working with other community members to search on boats and walking up and down the river banks outside Soldotna's Centennial Park hoping to find any clue as to where Phillip Keltner might be.

"We don't know if he's still in the water or if he made it to shore or got disoriented or collapsed somewhere," Missy Keltner said in a phone interview Tuesday. "But we're at a loss and not giving up hope and we're doing our best."

[Troopers: Colorado man missing days after being ejected from 'out of control boat' on Kenai River]

Missy Keltner said her father is an avid fisherman who splits his time between Colorado and a home in Sterling where he spent each summer for the last 20 years. Missy Keltner said he knows the Kenai River well.


Missy Keltner said it still wasn't clear Tuesday what caused the boat accident Friday night. Her father had gone fishing with friends the night the boat lost control at river Mile 19, throwing the four men from the boat. The other three men made it to shore but Phillip Keltner did not.

Missy Keltner said the recovered boat has cable steering. After inspecting the boat, the family wasn't sure if it hit a rock or had some sort of malfunction. According to state troopers, none of the men were wearing life jackets.

Troopers stopped assisting in the search Saturday "based on the circumstances," spokeswoman Megan Peters said Tuesday. Peters said that the agency has been in contact with the family and that troopers have issued a missing person bulletin.

Peters said that Alaska State Parks and Alaska Wildlife Troopers are continuing to check the area as part of their regular patrols.

Missy Keltner said the family is still looking for extra boats to assist in the search effort on the river. Anyone who wants to help can join the family at Soldotna's Centennial Park dock at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Missy Keltner said the family understands her father may not have survived the accident, but she hopes that if he did make to shore that he's still alive.

"We are his family. We want answers," she said.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.