Authorities in Alaska suspend search for boy missing after deadly landslide

The deadly landslide that struck Wrangell on the night of Nov. 20 is seen the next day. Southeast Alaska is, by nature, vulnerable to such landslides, but climate change is adding to the risk by bringing more precipitation and more extreme rainfall events. (Photo provided by Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

Juneau, Alaska (AP) – Authorities have suspended the search for the 12-year-old boy still missing following a deadly landslide in the southeast Alaska community of Wrangell.

Five people have been confirmed killed in the landslide and their bodies recovered: Otto Florschutz, Timothy and Beth Heller, and two of the couple’s children, Kara Heller, 11, and Mara Heller, 16.

Derek Heller remains missing following the Nov. 20 landslide that came down into the path of three homes, one of which was unoccupied. Florschutz’s wife, Christina Florschutz, survived.

The City and Borough of Wrangell on Wednesday said the decision to end the search for Derek Heller followed “15 days of tireless and exhaustive efforts” by search and rescue teams.

“After careful consideration and evaluation of all available information, it has been determined that all accessible search areas have been thoroughly examined. Search and Rescue volunteers and a scent-detection K9 team will be available to respond with active searching if any new information or evidence leads to a specific search area in the future,” the city said in a statement posted on social media.

The late-night landslide was estimated to be 450 feet (135 meters) wide and covered a swath of the coastal highway. It occurred during a storm marked by rainfall and gusty winds.

Wrangell is about 155 miles (250 kilometers) south of Juneau.