Search for Camp Pendleton Marine missing in California mountains continues

Marine Corps officials on Saturday, March 9, 2019, said a search for 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft, who failed to return from a backcountry skiing trip through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, has entered its sixth day.


By ERICA I. RITCHIE | The Orange County Register | Published: March 15, 2019

CAMP PENDLETON (Tribune News Service) — Search and rescue teams from 13 agencies continued to search Thursday, March 14, for a 24-year-old Marine infantry officer who on Feb. 23 undertook a 10-day, nearly 200-mile backcountry ski trip along the Sierra High Route.

During the ninth day of the rescue effort, teams from the Inyo County and Mono County sheriff’s offices continued aerial reconnaissance of trails surrounding Kearsarge Pass and Onion Valley Road. The pass was where 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft had planned to start his trip.

Search and rescue teams also conducted surveillance near Big Pothole Lake, said Carma Roper, spokeswoman for the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department.

Air support came from China Lake Naval Weapons Base and the Marine Corps. The Army National Guard also has been flying the route daily with thermal imagery. Several “points of interest” were found from the aerial reconnaissance but turned out be animal dens.

“Backcountry snow instability and high winds have been a significant challenge,” Roper said. “Both aerial and ground searches have identified multiple avalanches.”

Kraft is serving with the 1st Battalion/7th Marines at Twentynine Palms and is based out of the 1st Marine Division headquartered at Camp Pendleton.

His itinerary began out of the Kearsarge Pass trailhead Feb. 23, with the trip scheduled to end March 4 or 5 near Bridgeport, said Capt. Paul Gainey of the 1st Marine Division.

The search for Kraft began March 4 after his father contacted the Mono County Sheriff’s Office after not hearing from his son. A sheriff’s team first looked for him at trailheads in the Bridgeport area. Inyo County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue began a search March 5.

The Marine Corps is committed to finding him, Gainey said on Wednesday.

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