Avalanche debris found as search continues for US Marine lieutenant from Camp Pendleton missing after 10-day ski trip

PHOTO: 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft has been reported missing to local law enforcement after missing his return date from a backcountry skiing trip on the Sierra High Route.Play1st Marine Division/Facebook
WATCH Marine lieutenant from Camp Pendleton missing after 10-day ski trip

Search-and-rescue teams looking for a Marine missing after a scheduled backcountry ski trip in the central California mountains located debris from an avalanche as they climbed to the peak of the mountain.

First Lt. Matthew Kraft was planning to hike the Kearsarge Pass trail on Feb. 24 and was scheduled to end his trip on March 4 or March 5 near Bridgeport, California, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.

His car was located late Friday, but rescue teams have still not located the serviceman, according to the Inyo County Sheriff.

When Kraft's father didn't hear from his son, who is based at Camp Pendleton, by last Monday, he contacted the Mono County Sheriff's Office.

"One of our Marines, 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft, has been reported missing to local law enforcement after missing his return date from a recreational skiing and hiking trip on the Sierra High Route," the division wrote on Facebook page.

PHOTO: Inyo County Sheriffs Office is part of a multi-agency search for missing Marine 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft near Kearsarge Pass, Calif., on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Inyo County Sheriffs Office
Inyo County Sheriff's Office is part of a multi-agency search for missing Marine 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft near Kearsarge Pass, Calif., on Saturday, March 9, 2019.

After days of searching the trails, Kraft's vehicle was located by Inyo Search and Rescue on Friday night near Lower Grays Meadows, close to Independence, according to a press release issued on Saturday by the county's sheriff.

The rescue team deployed a snowcat "to rope-tow search and rescue team members on skis up to the Onion Valley parking area" ahead of another winter storm this weekend, according to the press release.

PHOTO: 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft has been reported missing to local law enforcement after missing his return date from a backcountry skiing trip on the Sierra High Route. 1st Marine Division/Facebook
1st Lt. Matthew Kraft has been reported missing to local law enforcement after missing his return date from a backcountry skiing trip on the Sierra High Route.

The search and rescue team found "recent avalanche debris" when they reached about 8,000 feet, about 2 miles from the Kearsarge trailhead, according to the sheriff's office. Evidence of other smaller avalanches was also observed, the update stated.

Searches on Sunday will be primarily air-based due to avalanche concerns, authorities said.

Mono Country Sheriff initiated a forensic cell phone analysis and determined the phone was used in the Independence area, according to the sheriff's office.

The search expanded with the Inyo County and Fresno County Sheriff's Offices. The California Highway Patrol, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Madera County Sheriff's Office, the Marines Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center are all assisting in the search, with the Fresno County Sheriff and the Air National Guard providing aerial support.

Authorities are also looking for help from the public, asking anyone with information regarding Kraft's case to call 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.

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