Search halted: Troopers call off 7-day missing man rescue effort

Posted: Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Alaska State Troopers have officially suspended the search for the man who went missing in the Kenai River on July 21.

The decision came after rescue workers combed the river until 1:30 p.m. on Monday.

"They dragged the river and didn't find anything," Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said. "If we get tips and it's a good indicator of where and when, sure we'll resume it, but at this point it's suspended indefinitely."

Robert A. Smithwick is thought to be the man who disappeared into the river about 100 feet upstream from the Pillars boat launch on Wednesday. Smithwick, a 41-year-old Soldotna resident, owns Pizza Boys.

Understandably, Smithwick's family didn't want to say much on Monday morning.

"We're waiting for news. The troopers are still searching," Nate Davis, the self-described family representative, said on Monday before the search had been suspended. "At the right time, we'll let you know."

Rescue crews spent Monday combing the river about 100 yards down from the boat launch but found nothing. Troopers were interested in searching the area after dog teams had a hit there on Saturday.

Authorities thought Monday would be a good day to continue the rescue effort because not as many people would be around, according to Ipsen.

Smithwick's vehicle was found parked at the boat launch and his matches a description given by witnesses who claim to have seen a shirtless man struggling to stay afloat on Wednesday.

Authorities cannot confirm that Smithwick is the man who went missing in the Kenai, but they are urging anyone with information on Smithwick's whereabouts to call the Soldotna office at 262-4453.

Andrew Waite can be reached at

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