Kodiak teacher found after adventure race ends

Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) A missing adventure racer who raised fears for his safety when he did not show up at the finish line in Talkeetna was found late Tuesday night, Alaska State Troopers said.

Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson said Mike Sirofchuck, 48, a teacher from Kodiak, was picked up shortly before 11 p.m. and flown to the airport in Talkeetna. Wilkinson said Sirofchuck was in ''good condition,'' but he had no further details on Sirofchuck's ordeal.

Searchers had planned to mount a ground search Wednesday after the initial air search had failed to find any sign of Sirofchuck in the Talkeetna Mountains.

Sirofchuck had left the Eureka Roadhouse 150 to 180 miles southeast of Talkeetna on the Glenn Highway 11 days ago with 29 other competitors in the loosely organized Alaska Mountain and Wilderness Classic. All were bound for Talkeetna.

The race finished almost a week ago when the leaders walked across the finish line, but back-of-the-packers continued to trickle in this week. Sirofchuck, however, failed to show.

The Wilderness Classic, an Alaska epic, has for decades prided itself on a lack of fatalities and an ability to operate in Alaska's harshest conditions with never a call for rescue. The latter record ended earlier this year when a National Guard para-rescue specialist with bad feet turned on an emergency locator beacon.

The guardsman thought, according to race director Roman Dial, that he was turning the race into a training exercise for Pavehawk helicopter pilots and crews from Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage that had been overflying the course regularly during the race.

But the beacon he had with him apparently was programmed to a civilian frequency. A satellite picked up the signal and beamed it to the Rescue Coordination Center at Elmendorf Air Force Base, which then dispatched Helo 1 to the rescue.

Sirofchuck's rescue became the second in the string of races.

Wilkinson said one of the race participants had gone up in a helicopter that was looking for Sirofchuck and spotted him.

Sgt. Rod Johnson of the Alaska State Troopers said earlier Tuesday that the last sign of Sirofchuck has been Friday, when he signed in at a checkpoint near Disappointment Creek.

''There was no indications of any problems in the note he left,'' Johnson said.

A racer who reported he had been behind Sirofchuck for much of the competition finished Monday, Alaska State Troopers reported. He was the 29th racer to check in at the Talkeetna finish line, leaving only Sirofchuck still out.

Sirofchuck is a veteran of previous races. He has worked for Kodiak's search-and-rescue team and had proven himself capable of taking care of himself in the wild.

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