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It took 21 years to find an eastern Idaho man missing in Alaska. This is his story.

Stanley Fredericksen next to his plane. | Courtesy Fredericksen family
TETON COUNTY — For years, it was unknown what exactly happened to an eastern Idaho man who went missing in Alaska, but the mystery was eventually solved, and the man’s brother recently shared details with
The story on Stanley “Stan” Fredericksen was shared in October 2023 as part of the weekly Looking Back feature, which looks back on what life was like during certain time periods in east Idaho history.
The Looking Back article explained that in October 1958, the Idaho State Journal reported that Stan, a father of two, had been missing since Aug. 21, 1958.
Who was Stan Fredericksen?
Stan was born July 4, 1924, in West Yellowstone, Montana, according to Randall Fredericksen, 88, of Ashton. (The newspaper article referred to Stan as a “former Pocatello man,” but Randall said that’s incorrect.) Stan was one of Randall’s older brothers.
Stan grew up in Teton County near Felt. He was alive during the Great Depression and was one of eight siblings. There were two girls and six boys in his family.
Randall said Stan served in World War II and the Korean War. He also worked for Idaho Fish and Game before transferring to Alaska to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By that time, he was married and had a son and daughter.
What happened to Stan?
Stan was last seen on an airplane with two other men — Clarence Rhode, then the Alaska regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who was flying the plane, and Rhode’s 22-year-old son, Jack, who was preparing to return to his engineering courses at the University of Washington.
Stan, 34, was one of Rhode’s chief assistants and game management agent in charge of the Fairbanks district, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
“The trio was last seen … when their Grumman Goose airplane was winding in a northwesterly direction over Chandler Lake in the Brooks Range, 280 miles northwest of Fairbanks,” the News-Miner reported on Aug. 27, 1959, a year after their disappearance.
Anchorage Daily News said, “They carried with them 200 gallons of fuel to cache for future patrols in the Brooks Range.”
The men visited Porcupine Lake, where they radioed the office in Fairbanks, and flew on to visit a hunting guide at Schrader Lake and scientists camped at Peters Lake.
“They told the scientists they planned a return to Porcupine Lake before heading back to Fairbanks, but after taking off and heading west, they were never heard from again,” the Anchorage Daily News stated.
Stan’s wife, Betty Ann Fredericksen, was in Pocatello when the plane disappeared, according to the Idaho State Journal. She had taken their 5-year-old daughter to Colorado for an exam, as the daughter was scheduled to undergo heart surgery in the spring.
“After going to Denver, they returned to Pocatello for three weeks before returning to Fairbanks,” the Journal reported. “They were met at the airport in Fairbanks with the message that Fredericksen was missing.”
Randall was about 22 years old when his brother disappeared. He said because those on board had all their survival gear, the Fredericksen family thought one of the scenarios might be that they crash-landed and were still alive.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner said the disappearance of the three men “launched the most widespread aerial search operation ever conducted in Alaska.”
“It went on day after day for several months,” the paper said. “Participating were members of the Civil Air Patrol, military aircraft, those of the FWS and private fliers.”
At least 25 aircraft and 260 people covered an area of about 300,000 square miles in the search for the missing aircraft but didn’t find the men.
“After a while, you give up hope,” Randall stated. “His wife moved back to Pocatello with their two kids, and then that spring, their little girl — she was about 6 (and) had a hole in her heart — they took her to Denver and operated on her, and she died. It was a sad time.”
The discovery
It wasn’t until about two decades later, on August 23, 1979, that two hikers found the plane wreckage in a “steep, craggy area” at an elevation of almost 6,000 feet, according to an article by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“They looked across this draw and could see this orange color that didn’t match with everything else so they took their binoculars and said it looked like a plane crashed,” Randall explained. “They hiked over there, and sure enough … it was that plane.”
“An investigation into the wreckage indicated that the Grumman Goose likely hit a rock wall due to poor visibility in the high, narrow mountain pass, and this impact resulted in the onboard fuel exploding,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. “The death of all three members of the flight was likely instantaneous.”
Randall added, “One of the reasons (the plane) burned was because it had quite a bit of weight on it, and they flew up this box canyon and couldn’t get over the top and didn’t have enough room to turn, so they crashed right into the mountainside. … They only lacked about 20 feet of clearing the top.”
He said at the time of discovery, Stan’s bag was still lying in the wreckage. Although it had been covered with snow most of the time, his name on the bag was still visible.
Remembering Stan
Randall remembers Stan as being a “good pilot,” someone who “loved to fly planes” and who “loved his job.”
“He had quite a life for a young guy,” Randall said.
Stan was buried in Pocatello in December 1979.

The Fallen Comrades Memorial at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia. The plaque reads, “In tribute to the men and women of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who died protecting America’s natural resources. We honor them and remember their service for conservation and for the Nation.” | Courtesy Fredericksen family
The post It took 21 years to find an eastern Idaho man missing in Alaska. This is his story. appeared first on East Idaho News.

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