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By ANDREW SHEELER
Daily News Staff Writer
An Alaska State Trooper dispatcher helped a lost 77-year-old Nevada man download a locater app on his cellphone that led to his rescue late Monday night.
At 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Ed Leckey went for what was supposed to be a short hike on the Frog Pond Trail, near Ward Lake, according to a statement from Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Jerry Kiffer on Tuesday. Leckey turned right off of the main trail onto a flagged trail and then lost his way.
Leckey contacted the Alaska State Troopers at around 7 p.m. but "cellphone contact ... was intermittent and concern for his cellphone battery life prompted a request (that) he shut off his phone and follow a communication schedule," Kiffer wrote.
Rescuers — including troopers, 13 volunteers and one search dog — set up a command post at Frog Pond and search crews began combing the woods by 8:16 p.m.
Searchers came within 1,000 feet of Leckey "on our first pass," Kiffer said in a telephone interview Tuesday. Subsequent passes took searchers farther away from the lost hiker.
By 10 p.m., no trace of Leckey had been found. The dispatcher speaking with him was able to talk Leckey through activating a GPS app on his cellphone, providing him with his coordinates. With just 12-percent battery life remaining, Leckey finally could give the dispatchers his position.
Rescuers found Leckey by 11:50 p.m., Kiffer wrote.?He was cold and wet but uninjured. Rescuers helped him out of the woods and returned him to his vehicle by 1:40 a.m. Tuesday.
Kiffer said that had Leckey not provided his coordinates, "the search would have gone on for another two hours in an area he was not in" and then the search would have been suspended until Tuesday morning.
The GPS app saved Leckey from spending "a night out, with the real risk of hypothermia," Kiffer said in his Tuesday statement.
He encouraged all hikers to download such an app but also to understand that cellphone coverage is "severely limited" off the road system and locater beacons are freely available from KVRS.