CENTRAL SIERRA NEVADA, Calif. March 16, 2019 – A massive multiagency search in the Sierra Nevada has been underway for more than a week to locate missing U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft, a 24-year-old man from Washington, Conn. Kraft set out on a solo ski and hike trip on Feb. 24 with an itinerary to complete the 195-mile Sierra High Route on March 4 or 5. Beginning today the search operation will transition into a limited continuous search status until Kraft is found.
On March 4, Kraft’s father contacted Mono County Sheriff after not hearing from his son. Mono County Sheriff’s Office began checking trail heads in the Bridgeport area that day. Cell phone forensics initiated by Mono County Sheriff showed that his last phone activity was in the Independence area, in Inyo County. Inyo County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue began a search on March 5. The evening of March 8, Kraft’s vehicle was located at the Grays Meadows campground above Independence, Calif.
Backcountry snow instability and weather issues, including high winds, have been a significant challenge for search crews. Both aerial and ground searches have identified avalanche activity, cornices, and snow bridges throughout the wilderness, including along the Sierra High Route. The search zone has been determined to be larger than the state of Rhode Island and consists of the 195-mile Sierra High Route as well as multiple points of potential exit.
Aerial reconnaissance and ground teams have been deployed to the search area; however to date there have been no substantiated clues that link Kraft to any particular search area.
Additionally, aircraft with thermal and night vision imagery capabilities have been flying the route and while several points of interest have been identified – all have been investigated and determined to be animal related. Search crews also employed RECCO technology, an electronic device to find people buried in an avalanche.
Search and rescue authorities have been unable to locate evidence of Kraft’s location along his planned route.
The Marine Corps, along with the other assisting agencies, will continue to stand by and support Kraft’s family, friends, and Marines during this difficult time.
Agencies assisting throughout this search include U.S. Marine Corps, Mono County Sheriff, Mono County Search and Rescue, Inyo County Sheriff, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Madera County Sheriff, Fresno County Sheriff, Tulare County Sheriff, Los Angeles County Sheriff, Sequoia and Kings National Parks, Yosemite National Park, CHP H-80, CHP H-40, Air National Guard, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, China Lake Naval Weapons Base, and California Office of Emergency Services.
This is the final news release about this search and rescue operation, unless new information becomes available.
Beginning Monday, March 18, InciWeb, the Incident Information System being used to relay regular updates will go into inactive status, meaning updates will no longer be posted, but the page will remain accessible to anyone wanting information about this search.
If you were in the search area on or around Feb. 23, and you think you might have seen Kraft, please call 559-565-4286.