The search for missing Iditarod musher Melanie Gould -- last seen in her hometown of Talkeetna on Monday, May 30, and whose vehicle was found, abandoned, more than 100 miles north of the town on Saturday, June 4 -- has been called off.
According to a press release from the Alaska State Troopers, the decision was made on Thursday to call off the search after four days of intense searching both on the ground and in the air, with as many as 30 people on the ground with 20 dogs, covering 100 miles of trails in the area where her truck was found. Additionally, 100 hours of flight time were logged by trooper and civilian aircraft assisting in the search.
From the release:
"Despite the immense search, no signs of Ms. Gould were discovered after her vehicle was recovered. Until evidence or credible information regarding Ms. Gould's whereabouts becomes available to determine a more defined search area, an active search cannot proceed as the risk to SAR personnel is unjustifiable.
"The volunteer search and rescue community put forth an enormous effort. Participating agencies were MATSAR, PAWS- Fairbanks, ASARD- Anchorage, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Healy Tri-Valley Search and Rescue, Alaska State Parks Rangers, Cantwell Fire Department and members of the Healy Fire Department. The Cantwell lodge provided meals for volunteers. A special thanks to the SAR volunteers for the time and expertise they provided."
Gould disappeared mysteriously after she clocked out from her job at the Talkeetna Roadhouse at 5:20 p.m. on Monday, May 30. Troopers retrieved footage of her filling up her truck at a Talkeetna gas station at 3:20 a.m. that Tuesday. Gould, who maintained a small kennel of 12 dogs, left no provisions for their care, which friends described as very unusual.
There was no sign of her until her truck was spotted five days later, at the end of an old mining road off of the Denali Highway. The search began soon thereafter. A missing persons case on Gould remains open, and troopers continue to request information from the public on Gould's whereabouts. A Facebook page, "Have you seen Melanie Gould?" that has been coordinating much of the communication between searchers and the public, were as of this writing attempting to organize their own search effort, and urging continued restraint in order to maximize the efficiency of any public search.
Alaska Dispatch has an in-depth explanation of the timeline of Gould's disappearance --and the many rumors surrounding it -- here.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.