December 26, 2012

Mainer's body found on Alaska mountain

Derek Winn Russell, 20, may have slipped on ice and fallen while on a hike near his Coast Guard base.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

The body of Derek Winn Russell, a Hollis Center native and member of the Coast Guard, has been found on Barometer Mountain near Kodiak, Alaska, officials there said Tuesday.

In this Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 photo, Coast Guard helicopter hovers in front of Mt. Barometer as it searches for Derek Winn Russell, a Coast Guardsman who went missing as he hiked from the Coast Guard base to trails on nearby Mount Barometer. He was last seen Saturday, Dec. 22. (AP Photo/Kodiak Daily Mirror, James Brooks)


Russell, 20, was last seen at 10 a.m. Saturday as he was heading from the Coast Guard base to hike trails on the mountain. State police, Coast Guard helicopters and searchers on the ground began looking for him Saturday afternoon.

Nick Szabo, an official with Kodiak Island Search and Rescue, said skid marks in the ice and snow and an ice ax were found Tuesday at about 2,200 feet, near a trail typically used to descend from the mountain summit.

Russell's body was found about 1,000 feet below that point at around 3:30 p.m. Kodiak time (7:30 p.m. EDT).

Officers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Munro, the ship where Russell was assigned, referred calls to a local Coast Guard public affairs officer. Calls to her were not returned Tuesday night.

Mahlon McLean, Russell's uncle, said Tuesday night that his nephew was an avid fisherman and hiker and enjoyed hiking Mount Katahdin in Maine. It would not surprise the family to learn that he decided to hike up a nearby mountain in Alaska, he said.

McLean said Russell graduated from a private high school in Maine, but he didn't recall its name. Russell joined the Coast Guard in June, he said, and was assigned to the cutter in Alaska in September.

Beth Ipsen, a spokeswoman for the Alaska State Police, said a Coast Guard helicopter had searched for eight hours Monday and was joined by four teams of tracking dogs and other ground searchers Tuesday.

Ipsen said the searchers had checked out popular trails and destinations on the mountain Monday and had widened their search Tuesday.

She said fresh snow Monday might have covered up clues to where Russell went on the mountain, but searchers concentrated on one area after finding the ice ax.

"It's not a huge mountain, but I believe it's steep and the summit is icy and windblown," Ipsen said. "I was told the draw to the mountain is the spectacular views it offers to hikers."

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:


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