Officials hand out flyers, scale back search for missing jogger
ARISTES - Searchers conducted an informational traffic stop on Route 54 near Natalie as part of the ongoing efforts to locate a Northumberland man who went missing in the Roaring Creek Tract of Weiser State Forest Wednesday evening.
Members of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, part of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), distributed more than 1,000 fliers in hopes that a motorist commuting through the area will have information about Michael E. Kenney, 54, who was last seen jogging on a trail around 7 p.m. Wednesday in the state forest, approximately 4 miles south of Mount Carmel.
"If they see a picture, a face, maybe something will happen," said Larry Bickel, a member of the Bureau of Forestry's Incident Management Team that was on-site at the traffic stop.
The flier provides a photo of Kenney, 54, who has red hair, blue eyes and a thin build and is 6 feet 1 inch tall. Two photos of his blue two-door Honda, which was found parked in the forest parking lot on Route 54 with his keys and cellphone inside and a window rolled down, are also on the flier.
Cecile Stelter, public informations officer with the Incident Management Team, said the decision to canvass motorists on Route 54 was practical because it was likely if Kenney left the state forest on a road, he would have been spotted on this stretch.
"That was the road that is closest where the vehicle was last found and according to the law enforcement and operations here at the incident that would be the logical route of a person either in a car or walking," said Stelter. "People who may be traveling that route normally, (we're) basically stopping and asking if they saw something on Wednesday night."
Bickel said the public's response to the stop was positive and local law enforcement helped to assist with keeping traffic flowing.
"Mount Carmel Township Police Department has been exceptional today with this," said Bickel.
The day resulted in eight to 10 motorists pulling off the road to provide leads, on which Bickel said he could not comment until they were investigated further.
Scaling back search
The search team has been scaled back at the forest.
Stelter said 50 searchers walked and gridded the forested areas and trails while local law enforcement drove the roads.
On Sunday, more than 130 trained personnel took part in the search.
Stelter said the change is not an indication of Kenney's whereabouts but rather a financial necessity.
"We cannot sustain the number of resources that have been allocated to this incident," said Stelter. "Since we haven't found any significant development in the last few days, this is fairly typical that operations are scaled down."
Stelter said that most of the personnel conducting the search are from out of the area, and many needed to return to their home locations to complete their regular work. If a lead is found, said Stelter, the team will return because the search is not considered complete.
"It's just as easy to scale back up and bring additional resources back in," said Stelter. "The search is still ongoing."
Bickel was insistent the Bureau of Forestry is committed to locating Kenney.
"We're not going to quit," said Bickel. "We need to do this for the family."
Closed to public
The Roaring Creek Tract of Weiser State Forest remains closed to the public while the search continues.
Stelter said she was unsure when it would reopen to the public.
"We don't want anyone to mistakenly stumble across any clues or any evidence or anything that we might be able to use in helping find Mr. Kenney," said Stelter.
While the primary trails have been searched, many areas are being rechecked more thoroughly.
Among the areas rechecked within the Roaring Creek tract on Monday were three reservoirs.
Stelter said that residents have no reason to fear contamination at the reservoirs, which provides drinking water to various municipalities.
"There should be no reason to be concerned about the drinking potability of the water," said Stelter.
Anyone with information on the location of Kenney is asked to contact 570-875-6450.