Officials call off search for 2 Haines residents missing in landslide

A group of white people gather holding masks
On Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, volunteers gather at the Emergency Operations Center in Haines for a third day of searching two people missing after a landslide. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

The Alaska State Troopers are suspending the search for two Haines residents who went missing after a massive landslide destroyed their home on Beach Road.

Local business leader David Simmons and his tenant, Jenae Larson, a kindergarten teacher in town, have been missing since Wednesday’s landslide on Beach Road.

Alaska State Trooper Nick Zito said the weather has been a huge impediment to the search. Teams have been able to fly over the debris pile and comb the beaches, but the slide has been too unstable to search on foot.

According to the statement from troopers, active search operations were suspended due to continued rain and the likelihood of additional landslides in the area. Ground searchers left by boat today. New evidence or information could change things, but for now the search is over.

A side by side image of a girl holdinng a puppy on a deck and a white man with long hair smiling
David Simmons and Jenae Larson are missing after a landslide in Haines on Dec. 3. (Photos courtesy of family of David Simmons and Jenae Larson)

One sergeant with the troopers will stay in town and help with disaster relief. Members of the Coast Guard will remain in the area as well.

In a prepared statement, Haines Mayor Douglas Olerud told the community it was more than likely that Larson and Simmons are deceased and that they cannot risk losing additional lives by putting search and rescue personnel on the slide.

“I do want to thank everyone that has come together to support the community of Haines and especially the family and loved ones of Jenae and David,” he said. “While we deal with the aftermath of this immense tragedy, we would like to thank all the resources which immediately came to the aid of the Haines Borough…So many heeded the call when we asked for help. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all.”

Jeremy Larson, the brother of Jenae Larson, thanked the community of Haines for supporting his family.

“We just want to thank everybody for taking their time and it’s been really humbling to see this kind of turnout and all these people here who care about my little sister. You can’t really prepare for this, but having these people in our corner are going to make the next weeks, months, years a lot more bearable,” said Larson.

The Alaska Department of Public Safety has added Simmons and Larson to the Alaska Missing Persons Clearinghouse list.

Rashah McChesney contributed to this story.

This story has been updated and the spelling of Alaska State Trooper Nick Zito’s name has been corrected.