Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Five years later - Jon Francis story

Five years ago today I returned to Minnesota after joining the unsuccessful search for my brother Brian, who was last seen leaving the Shoestring Lodge in Whister BC July 12, 2002. There's been no news of course.

I thought of Brian today when I came across this article in our local paper, written about two weeks ago:
Family still searching for missing Minnesota hiker
Associated Press
Last update: July 16, 2007 – 1:23 PM

STANLEY, Idaho — It's been a year since Jon Francis disappeared while climbing in the Sawtooth Mountains near this central Idaho town.

Yet despite exhaustive efforts by rescue teams, volunteers and cadaver dogs, his family refuses to call off their quest for answers.

"We're playing to mixed reviews," David Francis, the father of Jon Francis, told KTVB in Boise. "There's a lot of support from people who knew Jon and loved Jon and ... also a number of people who say, 'Why don't you just give your son up to the mountain?' and we're not ready as a family to do that."

Jon Francis, of Stillwater, Minn., was a counselor at a Bible camp in the area. According to friends, he told co-workers he planned to climb the 9,733-foot Grand Mogul, high above Redfish Lake. Searchers said he made it to the top on July 15 and signed the log book, but they don't know what happened to him on the way down.

The search initially drew the attention of the governors of Idaho and Minnesota when Custer County officials called off the search, a move the family called premature. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty wrote then-Idaho Gov. Jim Risch, asking that state and local authorities assist in the search, and Risch met with the Francis family days afterward.

As the search resumed, Idaho authorities incorporated a U.S. Air Force plane with infrared sensors designed to see body heat in the mountains. More than 400 volunteers joined the search and at least 50 cadaver dogs were brought in to search for remains.

Still, searchers still came up empty.

This summer, the family bought a boat to ferry searchers across the lake to the trailhead believed to be used by Jon Francis.

The family is also working to promote safety and accident prevention for hikers and climbers by launching the Jon Francis Foundation, aimed at instructing hikers and climbers with basic safety and survival information.

"Jon in his brief life made a lot of difference, he left a lot of footprints for a young man," his father said. "We intend to remain here until the snow falls ... until it's unsafe to search."
It's not the path we chose, but I think I can understand it. Perhaps if we'd had a better idea where Brian went we might have returned to search, but really we had only knew of a stated intent to climb Rainbow Mountain. We don't even know that he made it to a trail.

I wonder how often lone hikers like Jon Francis fall to predators.


Anonymous Meg McConnell said...

Jon Francis was like my big brother... he always encouraged me during my Cross Country runs...and he supported me in faith as well...

September 21, 2009 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger JGF said...

Good people live on in the memories of their friends and loved ones.

September 21, 2009 at 9:57 PM  

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