1st Lt Matthew Kraft –Marine Missing After Back Country Hike

 In Military

First Lt Matthew Kraft is a Marine attached to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines out of Twenty-nine Palms. He planned a 10 day hike in the back country of the High Sierras starting on February 23 and ending on March 4th or 5th near Bridgeport, California (site of the Marine Corps Warfare training center), according to the Marine Corps Times. Searchers located his private vehicle at a campground on Friday. But he has gone missing.

A massive multi-agency rescue operation has been mounted with aerial assistance from several agencies. Lt Kraft is a well trained US Marine, and has expertise in mountaineering. He is trained in land navigation and survival techniques. He did everything he was supposed to do before embarking on the hike, according to Mercury News.

The terrain is difficult, and search efforts are further hampered by bad weather and low clouds.

“We’re optimistic he has all the tools he needs to survive. Anytime a Marine takes liberty we make sure he has a plan. He communicated his itinerary and the gear he had. He also gave us information on his drop-off and pick-up point.” Captain Paul Gainey, 1st Marine Division

Kearsarge Pass photo via Inyo County Sheriff

The Inyo county Sheriff’s office posted this update on Saturday:

An intense multiagency search for missing Marine Corps Lieutenant Matthew Kraft has lead search experts to the Kearsarge Pass area today.

Matthew Kraft’s vehicle was located by Inyo Search and Rescue at 9:00pm last night near Lower Grays Meadows (above Independence CA). Lt. Kraft’s itinerary was the Sierra High Route, which included hiking out of Kearsarge Pass on Feb 24h and hiking out near the Twin Lakes area by Bridgeport on March 4th or 5th. On March 4th Lt. Kraft’s father contacted Mono Sheriff after not hearing from his son.

Mono County Sheriff’s Office began checking trail heads in the Bridgeport area on March 4th; cell phone forensics initiated by Mono Sheriff showed that his last phone activity was in the Independence area. Inyo County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue began a search on March 5, 2019. Winter storms in the Sierra have made search activities extremely difficult. However, both ground teams and aerial reconnaissance have been utilized and will continue to be utilized as weather permits.

Today Inyo County Search and Rescue members deployed a snowcat to rope-tow search and rescue team members on skis up to the Onion Valley parking area (above Independence CA). The SAR team members will clear as much area as possible on Kearsarge Pass. Team members will work as long as weather permits; another storm is anticipated this afternoon through the weekend.

Agencies assisting in this search along the Sierra High Route include Marine Corps, Mono County Sheriff, Mono County Search and Rescue, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Inyo County Sheriff, Madera County Sheriff, Fresno County Sheriff, Sequoia and Kings National Park, Yosemite National Park, and California Office of Emergency Services. Aerial support has been provided by Fresno County Sheriff, CHP H-80, CHP H-40, and Air National Guard.

Individuals with any information regarding Kraft’s whereabouts should immediately contact Inyo County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 878-0383/ option 4; Mono County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 932-7549/ option 7; or Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at (559) 600-8400.

The comments on the Inyo County post was positive, and included prayers for his safe return. If anyone can survive winter in the High Sierras, it’s a US Marine.

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