Search continues in Alaska for Vicksburg man

Published 12:11 pm Saturday, August 21, 2021

The search continued Saturday for a Vicksburg man reported missing in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

According to information from the National Park Service, David White, 40, was reported missing after he did not check in by InReach during a hunting trip in the Jacksina/Canyon Creek area of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

The park, located in southeastern Alaska, is the largest national park in America, according to the Park Service. Jacksina Creek is about 60 miles west of the Canadian border, and 250 miles northeast of Anchorage, Alaska.

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NPS spokesperson Carrie Wittmer said Saturday more search teams were going into the area to look for White.

According to a press release from NPS, National Park Service rangers were notified Monday evening that the last time White checked in was Aug. 12. On Aug. 17, 18 and 19, park rangers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers flew over the area looking for signs of hunters in need of assistance.

Allen Pugh, a friend of White, said White, who spent his time growing up in Vicksburg and Tallulah, is stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska, and has been in the Army for 20 years.

“He goes out on a hunt annually for 7 to 10 days and hunts big game sheep and rams,” Pugh said as he and White’s nephew, Steven Hugley, waited for a flight to Anchorage to meet an Army buddy and assist in the search. “It’s the military tradition; you don’t leave anyone out there,” he said.

Pugh said White last talked with his girlfriend around Aug. 12 and told her he was crossing a river to go after a ram he was hunting. When she did not hear from him by Aug. 16, Pugh said, the girlfriend notified NPS authorities.

“Since then, they have found his truck, ATV and a distilled water bottle that his girlfriend identified as his,” Pugh said.

Although White has experience in the bush, Pugh said it is possible for anyone to run into problems and the weather can be a problem. Right now, he said, it has been raining for 13 days with nighttime temperatures in the 30s. 

NPS has teams in the air, searching streams and rivers, as well as a ground search.

Wittmer said Saturday the Park Service has two fixed wing airplanes and a helicopter that are participating in the search and providing ground support for searchers. She said a ground search team is being flown into the area by helicopter, and the rangers are getting help from a team of pack rafters and members from a volunteer search and rescue group.

Sgt. 1st Class White served as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist with the 65th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, according to base officials. He was a 19-year Army veteran who deployed four times to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, five Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, three meritorious unit citations, six Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army service ribbon.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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