Body of missing hiker found in Sitka

first_imgThe body of a missing hiker was found by searchers in Sitka on Friday afternoon.Listen NowMichael Hansen was 37-years-old. The avid outdoorsman – who also enjoyed fishing, berry picking and swimming – was reported missing last Monday, after he did not return from a solo hiking trip up Mt. Verstovia in Sitka.Throughout the week, Sitka Search and Rescue received assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Forest Service, the Alaska State Troopers, the Sitka Police and Fire Departments, and a number of volunteers who combed the mountain for Hansen and provided support to his parents, who arrived in Sitka on Wednesday (09-21-16),At 4:20 p.m. on Friday, a team of volunteers found Hansen at the 1160 feet level. His body will be transported to the medical examiner in Anchorage to determine cause of death.SAR Captain Lance Ewers believes Hansen slipped while hiking off trail on his way down Mt. Verstovia.“Instead of staying on the trial, he just decided to go straight down the mountain,” Ewers said. “It appeared like he feel and slid down, it could have been 100 feet. 75 to 100 feet or so. So it was a sad deal.”Ewers said the old growth forest Hansen was likely cutting through is deceptively steep and that it’s easy to lose your footing. He advises all those hiking and hunting in Sitka to take extra precautions when going off trail.“Watch your foot, especially in that steep terrain,” Ewers said. And if you gotta go back up hill, because it’s starting to get questionable, sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and turn around and go back uphill. And that’s easier said than done for anyone who has been in a situation like that.”Ewers praised the efforts of the teams for working long hours, in inclement weather and in steep terrain in the search for Hansen. Technology also played a role. Every team carried a GPS used to map which portions of the mountain had been covered and home in on Hansen’s location.Other technological breakthroughs were more simple, but no less significant. Ewers said that local locksmith Jerry Deppa managed to unlock Hansen’s car, which was left at the trailhead.“He spent hours on Michael’s car and through his training and experience was able to make a key on Michael’s car so his mom and dad had transportation while they were here,” Ewers said. “And they did that for free. I’m telling you, the people in Sitka are so great.”Hansen was born and raised in Wisconsin. The former Army ranger moved from Anchorage to Sitka in July of this year. He was a residential counselor at Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services, providing both individual and group counseling.Maria Garcia, his supervisor and friend, said Hansen was deeply committed to his job and supporting his clients, accompanying them on trips to the local raptor center, to yoga, and art therapy. Over the phone with KCAW, she described Hansen as “shy at first with a great sense of humor.” And that, “He was a very beautiful human.”last_img