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Weeklong search called off for missing Nome hiker after no traces turn up

 Photo courtesy Brodie Kimmel
Photo courtesy Brodie Kimmel (KTUU)
Published: Jun. 30, 2016 at 6:11 PM AKDT
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TUESDAY 1 p.m. UPDATE

Following an intense weeklong search for missing Nome hiker Joseph Balderas, Alaska State Troopers have suspended the active search pending any new leads, according to a trooper dispatch.

Searchers have found no evidence as to Balderas’ whereabouts.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Nome Search and Rescue, National Park Service, City of Nome, Civil Air Patrol, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Alaska Court System, Mat SAR, Fairbanks Paws and many other organizations donated resources and personnel to assist in the search.

FRIDAY 7:10 a.m. UPDATE:

Alaska state troopers say search efforts have revealed no signs of missing Nome hiker Joseph Balderas, but the search will continue for him on Friday.

A National Park Service plane searched from the air Thursday morning and a Civil Air Patrol GA8 from Fairbanks searched in the afternoon into the evening. Over two dozen searchers were on the ground, walking and on 4-wheelers. Three dogs from Fairbanks PAWS continued their efforts. Two more dogs from MAT SAR will expected to arrive on Friday.

UPDATE:

As of 9:45 p.m., the "Finding Joseph" website had raised $30,410, surpassing its goal.

ORIGINAL STORY:

A crowdfunding webpage has raised more than $27,000 to help fund ongoing efforts to find Joseph Balderas, a hiker from Nome who was reported missing earlier this week.

As of 7 p.m. on Thursday, the

group had raised $27,298 from 272 donors and was nearing its goal of raising $30,000. The page was created just yesterday.

“In anticipation of the State of Alaska discontinuing its funding of the search, a group of friends of Joseph is raising funds for continued search efforts,” reads the website’s description. “The group is aiming for $30,000 in donations to help with the high cost of aerial search efforts and other expenses in rural Alaska.

Alaska State Troopers were able to locate his vehicle near Mile 44 of the Nome-Council Highway but saw no sign of Balderas in the immediate area. Since then, ground and aerial search teams with troopers, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Nome Volunteer Fire Department have tried to locate him. Dog teams with Fairbanks PAWS recently joined search efforts as well.

According to the webpage, the group plans to use the money for search expenses as well as medical needs and family travel. Excess funds will be donated to local Search and Rescue volunteers.

Brodie Kimmel, who has been a close friend of Balderas since 2009, said he moved to Nome about two years ago when she informed him of a job opening as a law clerk for the court system. She described him as an avid outdoorsman and an active community member.

“He’s a very avid outdoorsman, and that’s what he loves about Nome is the access to the outdoors that Nome has to offer, crabs in the winter, easily accessible running and hiking trails and of course fishing,” Kimmel told Channel 2 in a phone interview. “He’s also very active in the community. He runs the youth court program here and just has a huge network of friends.”

Kimmel said the atmosphere in Nome is still optimistic as efforts to find Balderas continue.

“We are just so touched by the outpouring of support we have received from Joseph’s large community of friend reaching from Texas, California, Minnesota all the way up to Alaska,” she said. “We really want to thank all the volunteers, community members and people that are donating their time and money into this effort.”