http://newsminer.com/news/2009/jul/07/lodge-caretaker-2-horses-disappear-wrangel-mtns/Lodge caretaker, 2 horses disappear in Wrangel Mtns.
By Amanda Bohman
Published Tuesday, July 7, 2009
FAIRBANKS - Alaska State Troopers are looking for a drifter hired to look after a lodge in a national park about 100 miles outside of Tok.
An air and ground search for John Wipert, 60, continued Monday, according to lodge owner Urban Rahoi and trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters.
Rahoi, of Fairbanks, owns Ptarmigan Lake Lodge in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. He hired Wipert in late May, he said.
Wipert was down on his luck when Rahoi met him and was trying to make his way to the Lower 48. His job was to protect the lodge from marauding bears.
“He seemed like a helluva nice guy,” Rahoi said.
The lodge owner said he last saw Wipert two weeks ago while visiting the lodge. Wipert had been repairing horse saddles, Rahoi said.
“Everything was fine,” he said.
Wipert and two horses were discovered missing last week. The lodge and the 10 horses left behind were OK, Rahoi said.
“He didn’t take his clothes. He didn’t take his driver’s license,” he said.
Rahoi didn’t know why Wipert would leave.
“If he had stayed with me another month, I was going to buy him an airline ticket and send him on his way,” Rahoi said.
A trooper report described Wipert as 5 feet 8 inches tall with blue eyes and gray hair. He reportedly weighs 190 pounds.
Rahoi said he provided 165 gallons of gasoline for the air search, which is being conducted by a trooper Super Cub .
Another lodge owner conducted a brief ground search, Rahoi said. More searchers were preparing to travel by horseback to look for Wipert.
Rahoi planned to join the search today. He fears Wipert might have tried crossing the White River and been swept away.
No foul play is suspected, trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said.
“The main concern is he doesn’t know the area,” she said. “He had been staying there about a month and was living in either Fairbanks or Anchorage prior to that.”
Anyone who has seen a man matching Wipert’s description is asked to call (907) 883-5111 or 451-5100.