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Lost hiker's brother confirms rescue from Mount Lincoln

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 04. 2017 8:59PM


The brother of a Manchester man missing in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest since Tuesday said he is alive and has made contact with Fish and Game officials.

"He's alive, but they haven't located him yet," said Dan Willett, brother of Randy Willett, 53, of Manchester Thursday. "He called Fish and Game this afternoon, but the signal didn't last long. At least we know he is alive and appears to be OK so far."

Search and rescue teams have been looking for Willett in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest since receiving a 911 call from him at 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday.

Willett told the 911 operator he was not on a trail and he had fallen in a brook. He only knew the name of the trail he had been hiking. The call was lost before he could give any other details, including his name, where he was or where he had been.

Officers were able to identify him through his cellphone and talk to family members who provided them with Willet's hiking agenda.

Willett planned an extended hike over four days, much of which was in the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

His brother, Dan, confirmed rescuers heard from Randy on Thursday.

"He didn't know where he was, then the phone signal dropped," said Dan Willett. "They are sending more rescuers to the location they believe he is at."

Dan Willett said Fish and Game personnel were trying to triangulate a position where his brother may be based on where the cell phone call originated. A team of rescuers was being sent Thursday night to search near Franconia Ridge, said Willett.

Willett said his mother, Jane Willett of Manchester, headed up north to an area near the Kancamagus Highway awaiting word from rescuers about her son.

Dan Willett said he was remaining in Manchester awaiting the arrival of his nephew, Randy's son Cameron, who serves in the military and was due to arrive in New Hampshire Thursday night.

Dan said family members never lost hope Randy would be found alive.

"He's an experienced hiker. He's been in a situation like this before," said Dan. "He went hiking last fall in Sandwich when he got caught in a sudden storm. He made a shelter and rode out the storm, and that was when he was only planning on a day trip. This time he was planning on a four-day hike, so he has what he needs to be there an extended period of time. He's not someone that would head out unprepared."

Willett said his brother told Fish and Game officials on Thursday he was having trouble walking through the deep snowpack.

"He sounded tired but OK," said Dan Willett.

Fish and Game officers began searching trails on Tuesday, continuing well after dark before suspending the operation. They resumed Wednesday morning when teams were flown into various locations by New Hampshire Army National Guard helicopter. From there they searched multiple trails and drainages hoping to find Willett.

Also searching for Willett were volunteers from the Pemi Valley Search and Rescue Team and the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team.

The Pemigewasset Wilderness consists of 45,809 acres and has no roads. The Wilderness Trail, which is nine miles long and follows an old railway bed, is possibly the most hiked in the White Mountains. The Appalachian Trail follows the northern border.

Public Safety Weather Outdoors Manchester White Mountains

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