Avalanche debris found during search for missing Camp Pendleton Marine

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The search continued for a Camp Pendleton-based Marine reported missing after he didn’t return from a skiing trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

First Lt. Matthew Kraft went on a recreational backcountry skiing trip on the Sierra High Route last month, according to a 1st Marine Division spokesman. Kraft was slated to start on the Kearsarge Pass trailhead on Feb. 23 and end March 4 or 5 near Bridgeport.

The Mono County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team started searching for Kraft on March 4 after Kraft’s father notified them of his son's disappearance. Multiple other sheriff’s departments and law enforcement agencies have since joined the search that spans of 400-square-mile area from Yosemite down to Sierra and Inyo National Forests and Kings Canyon National Park.

Seven volunteers searched the upper sections of Onion Valley Road west of Independence, an area closed for the winter and impassible due to heavy snow and rock fall.

“The team reached about 8,000 feet, approximately two miles from the Kearsarge trailhead, where recent avalanche debris was observed covering the road; other small avalanches were also observed in several chutes across the road,” Inyo County Sheriff’s Office posted to Facebook Sunday.

On Sunday, the search was primarily air-based as “ground searching has proven to be too dangerous due to snow instability and avalanches concerns.”

Kraft’s rental vehicle, a gray two-door 2016 Jeep Wrangler, was found parked in Independence, about 130 miles south of Bridgeport, Inyo County Sheriff’s spokeswoman said Saturday.

Anyone with information about Kraft’s whereabouts should contact Inyo County Sheriff’s Office at 760-878-0383, Mono County Sheriff’s Office at 760-932-7549 or Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at 559-600-8400.

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