Friday, July 21, 2006

Authorities call off search for hiker

Express Staff Writer

Jon Francis

Custer County authorities have called off the search for a Utah man missing since Saturday, July 15, in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

The search for Jon Francis, 24, a youth minister from Ogden, Utah, was suspended Tuesday evening, according to a statement from the Custer County Sheriff's Office.

"The search for Mr. Francis went as far as it possibly could go with the resources available," the sheriff's office reported. "There were ground search teams, a fixed-wing aircraft, a helicopter, and search and cadaver dogs."

A three-day search in the area of Grand Mogul near Redfish Lake south of Stanley failed to find a trace of Francis' whereabouts, the sheriff's office reported.

Meanwhile, Francis' parents, from Stillwater, Minn., have continued the search on their own, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Francis was reported missing Sunday afternoon, July 16, after he failed to return the previous day from a planned climb up Grand Mogul.

Originally from Stillwater, Minn., Francis is a youth minister at Ascension Lutheran Church in Ogden. He has spent the last several summers as a counselor at Luther Heights Bible Camp, which is located some 40 miles north of Ketchum near Alturas Lake.

A press release from the bible camp credited searchers with working diligently to locate the missing minister:

"They worked extremely hard; their dedication and support have been important to all of us. It appeared that they conducted a systematic, competent and thorough search for our dear friend Jon Francis."

The Pioneer Press reported that Francis is a former cross-country runner and an experienced hiker and climber.

His father, David Francis, a state senate candidate in Minnesota, told the Pioneer Press that he thinks his son had trouble descending Grand Mogul, but is still alive.

The Pioneer Press further reported that friends and family members have been calling congressional and gubernatorial offices in Idaho and Minnesota requesting that the search for Francis be resumed.

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