Search for 2 in WY hits home for 2 Minn. families

Published 1:35 pm Friday, April 22, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Jon Francis disappeared while hiking in the Idaho mountains five years ago, Dan and Sue Seftick lent support to the Minnesota man’s family while it grappled with the uncertainty and despair.

After his remains were found, the Sefticks donated to a foundation the Francises set up to help other families thrust into the same nightmarish scenario.

Now David Francis, Jon’s father, is in a position to repay his friends’ kindness, because their own son, Greg, is missing in Wyoming.

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Greg Seftick, 31, and his friend, Walker Pannell Kuhl, 27, set off on skis last weekend to climb and camp in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Seftick, who recently moved from West Virginia to Columbia Falls, Mont., and Kuhl, who lives in Salt Lake City, were reported missing on Monday. Snowy weather on Thursday suspended the search for the men, who are feared buried by an avalanche.

David Francis said the Sefticks are dealing with “deep sorrow” and uncertainty. He said Dan Seftick reached out to him Tuesday night and shared the upsetting news.

“He said: ‘My son Greg has gone missing. Can you help?” Francis said. “I took him through the search process and what he can expect and sent him our family checklist, which we developed for families who suffered the misfortune of losing a loved one, primarily in the wilderness.”

The families, both from Minnesota, have known each other for 20 years. Their sons were high school friends in Stillwater, Minn., and teammates on the soccer team. The Francises still live in Stillwater, and the Sefticks in Afton.

Jon Francis, 24, disappeared July 15, 2006, while hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. He was spending the summer there as a counselor at a Bible camp. He left a note on the summit of Grand Mogul celebrating the climb, but fell to his death on the way down.

A family-organized search, using hundreds of volunteers as well as professionals, recovered his remains the following July about 1,500 feet below the summit.

Now, the family of Greg Seftick is facing a similarly dreadful experience. David Francis said the Sefticks flew to Wyoming on Wednesday morning.

He said it takes him back to the events surrounding his son’s disappearance. He said it’s tough not knowing whether your child will be found alive, and that it’s particularly “gut wrenching” not knowing whether their remains will be recovered if they are presumed dead.

Francis said the Sefticks are fortunate the National Park Service is leading the search for their son, who’s a medical doctor. The park service is “world class” in supporting families of missing people, he said.

The park service uses an incident command system developed by the military. Francis said the system works well for coordinating searchers and multiple agencies.

The service provides a family advocate who makes sure they’re kept up to date.

“The National Park Service does it right. … I’m confident they’re being well-supported,” Francis said.