Body of Wilderness Classic Racer Recovered From Tana River

A long time competitor in one of Alaska’s most famous and dangerous backcountry races has died.  Rob Kehrer was found dead while competing in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic over the weekend in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

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The body of 44-year-old Rob Kehrer, pictured here on the 2013 Wilderness Classic website, was found by search and rescue personnel after he was last seen in his pack raft on the Tana River. Photo from the 2013 Wilderness Classic website.

On Sunday morning, Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve officials received a call from the Rescue Coordination Center at Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson needing help locating Rob Kehrer.  Peter Christian is the Chief Ranger for Wrangell-St. Elias.  He said the 44-year-old was last seen Saturday afternoon by his partner in his pack raft on the Tana River, a tributary of the Chitina River.

Search efforts were based out of McCarthy.  Around 4 p.m., Kehrer’s body was located by an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter crew about two and a half miles downstream from where he was last seen.  Hs body was transported to Providence Hospital in Anchorage.

Kehrer, a Mat-Su resident, was a 10-year veteran of the race.  The race itself is 32 years old and has been held in various places such as the Brooks Range, Kenai Peninsula, and Talkeetna Mountains.  Since 2012, it has been held in Wrangell-St. Elias.

Christian says it is an unsanctioned event and is not permitted in the park.

Christian says park officials cannot stop the event because they don’t know when it’s held every year.  He says they plan to talk to the event organizers in order to prevent similar event from happening again.

Tony Gorman is a reporter at KCHU in Valdez.

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