Skip to main Content

Search for skier suspended until Hatcher Pass safe for ground teams

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 1, 2015

Alaska State Troopers have suspended search efforts for a skier missing for more than a week in Hatcher Pass, as road crews begin work to reopen Hatcher Pass Road.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email Tuesday that search-and-rescue teams were awaiting an opportunity to find 33-year-old Liam Walsh, after weekend overflights with a helicopter carrying a special antenna didn't pick up his avalanche beacon.

"Essentially the search is suspended pending future opportunities to utilize SAR dogs as weather and conditions allow," Peters said.

Walsh, who was last heard from Nov. 23, disappeared about two days before a major slide that has blocked Hatcher Pass Road for a week.

Shannon McCarthy, a spokeswoman with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said crews have finally completed assessment work in preparation for removing the 14-foot-deep mass of snow.

"They have started clearing -- it will take several days," McCarthy said. "Safety of course is paramount in these situations, which is why we had to wait."

According to Peters, the slide across Hatcher Pass Road is just one of many in the region.

"There's just tons of avalanche debris fields that are possible search areas," Peters said. "Unfortunately they haven't been able to get in there to do any ground searching, or identify an area to do a ground search."

It isn't clear when conditions might permit a ground search, Peters said. She cited both weather and the delays needed to conduct avalanche mitigation work, such as deliberately triggering slides on dangerous ridges, in order to keep searchers safe.

"Even if they do have favorable weather, they'd have to do mitigation, and while they're doing mitigation weather could move in," Peters said.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.