Search for Alaska campers continues after NY friend found dead 6-1-07

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Several days after a Long Island woman on a camping trip in Alaska was found drowned, the search for her two missing companions continues at Harding Lake, authorities said Friday.

Officials are using six to 10 cadaver dogs and have started using a SuperCub aircraft to search the lake, said Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.

The campers have been missing for five days and Ipsen could not say how long the search would continue.

“They haven't found anything, but it's a day-by-day assessment,” she said. “As long as the two bodies are still missing there will be something to find.”

The body of Liza Lomando, 20, of East Meadow, N.Y., was pulled from the lake Tuesday. She was last seen Sunday afternoon in a canoe with co-workers Travis Alexander, 19, of Fort Yukon; and Kathy Garrigan, 24, of Oak Park, Ill.

The three AmeriCorps volunteers had driven from Nenana to spend Memorial Day weekend at a campground on the lake near the Richardson Highway.

Searchers Wednesday found a digital camera showing the three drinking from a whiskey bottle while in the canoe.

Six divers from the Eielson Air Force Base Fire Department who volunteered to help search the lake Friday will also return this weekend, Ipsen said. Troopers were dragging the lake until Thursday when divers began searching the waters, Ipsen said.

A helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron with the Alaska Air National Guard based out of Eielson also has been searching.

The missing group was overseen by the Tanana Chiefs Conference, a nonprofit cultural, health services and jobs corporation representing 42 Interior villages.

Officials at the Tanana Chiefs Conference have organized a supplemental search.

Jim Knopke, one organizer of the conference's effort, said volunteers would search the lake by boat and comb the woods around the lake.

“We're not going to discount a land-based search as well,” Knopke said. “We'll have people out here walking the shoreline and checking out the various campgrounds.”

Garrigan's family issued a statement expressing the hope for her safe return.

“We appreciate all of the efforts of the Nenana community, who she came to know and love while volunteering for the Tribal Civilian Community Corps through AmeriCorps,” her family said. “We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and concern by members of the Tanana Chiefs Conference.”