Phone app helps Alaska rescuers find lost man

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — A 77-year-old Nevada man who became lost on a hike in southeast Alaska was found after authorities helped him download a locator app on his cellphone, rescuers said.

Ed Leckey had started out on a short hike at Frog Pond Trail in the Ketchikan area Monday afternoon. But Leckey became lost after he turned off the main trail, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

Leckey called Alaska State troopers that evening, but cellphone contact was intermittent, according to searchers. Also, concern for his phone battery life prompted a request that he shut it off and follow a communication schedule, Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Jerry Kiffer said.

Rescuers including volunteers, troopers and a search dog began combing the woods.

Kiffer said searchers came within 1,000 feet of the lost man on their first pass through the area. They got farther away from Leckey as the search continued.

No trace of Leckey was found by 10 p.m., so a trooper dispatcher helped Leckey activate a GPS on his phone. That provided his coordinates, and Leckey was able to relay his position, with just 12 percent of the battery life remaining.

Rescuers found him just before midnight. The hiker was wet and cold, but uninjured. Rescuers helped him out of the woods, and he was back at his vehicle shortly after 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Kiffer said the search would have gone on another two hours in the wrong area had Leckey not provided his coordinates. The search would then have been suspended until the following morning, Kiffer said.

Because of the app, Leckey was saved from spending “a night out, with the real risk of hypothermia,” Kiffer said in a statement.

According to Kiffer, cellphone coverage is severely limited off the road system, and locator beacons are available from the rescue squad.

Leckey’s hometown was not disclosed.

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