Update: Alaska State Troopers said the search for Balderas continued Thursday. While the Coast Guard is no longer assisting, search crews gathered information both from aircrafts and on the ground.
Joseph Balderas, 36, was reported missing in Nome Alaska Monday and people both in Nome and in his hometown of Lubbock, TX are banding together to search for him and support his family.
Balderas is a graduate of Roosevelt High School and Texas Tech University. He attended law school in Minnesota and then moved to Nome, Alaska where his sister said he’d lived for roughly five years. The town of Nome is home to over 3,000 people.
Balderas was first reported missing to Alaska State Troopers Monday morning, they heard of his disappearance because he didn’t arrive for work. His car was found at mile 44 of the Nome-Council Highway, near where he may have been hiking. But officials couldn’t find Balderas in the area.
According to Alaska State Trooper dispatches, multiple air crews including US Coast Guard, National Park Service, chartered aircraft and a private fixed wing have been helped in the search. Volunteers are covering the area Balderas went through on foot and with ATV’s.
A spokesperson for the Alaska department of public safety explained that the area around where Balderas’ car was found has relatively high visibility and is surrounded by rolling hills.
The local Nome radio station, KNOM is also helping spread information about the search effort for Joseph and updates for those who are out searching. KNOM general manager Ric Schmidt said that he estimates over 100 community members in Nome are involved in the search effort, many have left their jobs and daily schedules to help until Joseph is found.
“You can’t get to Nome by accident, you have to get here by airplane, by boat or by dog sled,” he explained.
Being in such a remote area fosters a strong sense of community, Schmidt said.
“With the extreme weather and conditions, many times here, you may not know the person who helps you or gives you a hand up to save your life, but the folks are here to do that,” he added.
Schmidt said Nome’s first responders and emergency services personnel have to be extremely skilled and coordinated because of all the work they do in such a remote location .
“Again these folks are very practiced, they are very experienced and there is all kinds of hopes that Joseph could be found alive if they can get to him here very quickly,” Schmidt said.
He explained that businesses have closed and many people have taken off from work to join in the search effort
“I would say that what I’ve seen of the folks here in town that Joseph may be from Texas, but this effort is being treated as though he was born here in Nome and the people really care so much for him and are doing absolutely everything they can to find him,” Schmidt said.
Balderas’ sister, Michele Robinson, who lives in Lubbock has been speaking to Alaska state troopers about the search effort.
“They’re flying in some dog teams there’s three to help with the search this afternoon,” she said. She explained that those dogs will be trying to determine the direction Balderas went.
“Last night [the state trooper] said not to give up hope that this kind of thing happens a lot in Alaska and they’re going to continue to look for him as long as they feel that he’s still out there so they could rescue him,” Robinson said Wednesday.
She explained that the search team is combing through a very large area for clues.
Balderas’ sister, Salina Hargis, explained that the search party began a third day of search on Wednesday, She and her parents who live in Lubbock are headed to Nome to search for Joseph as well.
Hargis said that her brother has been gone since Saturday.
“I just want everyone to pray for him,” she said. She and her siblings grew up in Lubbock and all attended Roosevelt.
“He just loves his family a lot, and his friends and he will do anything for them, he’s a great guy,” Hargis explained. “He’s a big outdoors person he’s always fishing, hunting, it’s not unusual for him to do anything like this, he does camping alone.”
Balderas’ brother, Chris Balderas said he he has the utmost confidence in his brother’s ability to fend for himself in the wilderness.
“I have been to Alaska twice to go see Joseph and we’ve gone on extensive trips together, so I know what he is capable of, I know what his skills are and for me personally I’m very optimistic that’ he’s still alive and he can be found,” Chris Balderas said.
A fundraising page has been set up to support the search efforts and Joseph’s family, you can donate here.