Mount Marathon Rescue Efforts Continue (KTVA.com Exclusive)
KTVA's Megan Edge was with the search party
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SEWARD – A red and black glove, a black bandana, an orange racing chip - any clue of where Michael LeMaitre may be…
“Honestly, I am running out of ideas,” said Seward Fire Chief David Squires. “I hope you're the group that finds him, I hope you bring him home.” It was a brief message of frustrated hope from the chief, who is determined to do what ever it takes to find the 66-year-old Mount Marathon runner.
A group of 18 gathered at 9 a.m. sharp to be briefed. Drawn in a blue, dry-erase marker was a small map giving us directions where to search and what to expect, but even the most detailed instructions would not prepare you for the “hike” that the group of statewide volunteers were about to take.
I was dressed in my black workout pants, and before we left the station a fellow experienced volunteer informed me that that wasn't going to be the best choice. He suggested jeans, and now after looking at the scrapes on my exposed skin, it was a very valuable piece of advice. I reluctantly changed into my Levi's, which are now covered in dirt, green stains, thorns and even a caterpillar.
Around 10 a.m. we were shuttled in groups from the firehouse to the mountain. In a white jeep we got to know each other, bouncing over bumps, rocks and mud holes, piled seven deep into the off-road vehicle.
Jokes were made and everyone’s spirits were high. We were dropped off and we waited for the others to begin our journey.
“Be safe,” said Squires, as he made his way back down the jeep trail and we prepared for our search to begin.
We spread out eight feet apart and belted off our numbers for a head count before beginning. Not three steps into the “hike” was a jagged, rocky cliff. It was hidden behind bushes and devil's club that towered over the top of my head. It was like rock climbing, without the security of a harness. Each step was precisely thought out. I searched for trees and steady rocks to place my feet and bare hands.
“Falling rock!” shouted Bob, a man next to me in line, who just moments ago was discussing dogs with me. He briefly lost his footing, but was able to quickly regain his composure. I was focusing on his safety, and the devil’s club I had my hand around was breaking and the small tree beneath me was creaking. I dug my feet and fingers into mud, braced myself and pulled myself up.
A few minutes later we were up and over the ridge. We headed to the spruce trees, where we were told to stop, placing yellow markers in the trees, which were already covered with orange tape, where searchers had already been. I was up to my neck in devil’s club, grass and weeds.