July 31, 2013

Maine wardens in need of professionals experienced in search, rescue to help locate hiker

Difficult terrain may make rescue operations more complicated

By Jesse Scardina jscardina@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The Maine Warden Service has “taken all leads to this point as far as we can go” in the disappearance of Appalachian Trail hiker Geraldine Largay.

click image to enlarge

This photo taken Saturday, July 20 in Sandy River Plantation at the intersection of Route 4 shows Geraldine Largay in her black rain jacket which she would likely have been wearing in the rain on Tuesday, July 23.

Contributed photo via the Maine Warden Service.

click image to enlarge

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While the search for the missing Tennessee woman continues, the Maine Warden Service needs more formally trained searchers because of the difficult terrain in the area, said Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the service.

The Warden Service continued to use volunteer searchers on Wednesday, but Wednesday night announced it is now seeking only searchers who are affiliated with the Maine Association of Search and Rescue. The organization is a non-profit group that provides training and certification for search and rescue volunteers using nationally recognized standards, MacDonald said in a press release.

“If we just pull people in that have hiked in the past and are interested in helping us, we’d have our work cut out for us,” MacDonald said in an interview earlier in the day. “We need people that, because of the terrain, are formally trained in search and rescue.”

An “intensified search strategy” will be put in place this weekend, according MacDonald.

The Warden Service is also using national cellphone analyst experts to try to track down Largay. But he added that searchers “have taken all leads to this point as far as we can go” and are still urging the public to help.

MacDonald said it’s up to the commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the colonel of the Maine Warden Service to decide how long the search continues and that “it’s not going to be an easy decision.”

MacDonald stressed the Warden Service still wanted to find the hiker who called the Stratton Motel at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 24. The female caller “made a statement regarding Inchworm (Largay’s trail name) being overdue in meeting with her husband, George.”

Searchers were able to take to the air earlier Tuesday in the search for Largay, nine days after the Tennessee woman last talked to her husband.

About 60 searchers continued looking for Largay, 66, of Brentwood, Tenn., who started her hike in April, 950 trail miles south in West Virginia.

Largay’s husband, George, had been following her progress via text message throughout her trip. On July 21, Largay left Sandy River Plantation near Rangeley and texted her husband that she was on top of Saddleback Mountain. Largay sent a text to her husband the next morning and planned to meet him in Wyman Township, about seven miles north on the trail, the next day, but she never arrived.

Police ask anyone with information about Largay to call the Public Safety Dispatch Center in Augusta at 800-452-4664.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

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