Hikers found dead in Alaska identified as Columbia residents

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JUNEAU, Alaska - Two missing hikers whose bodies were found Monday were from Columbia.

The National Park Service tentatively identified the two as Rochelle Renken and Michael Huffman, both 62.

The National Park Service said bodies matching the pair's description were recovered Monday along the Sanford River. The two were reported missing in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park last week.

Evidence suggests the two tried to cross the river near the toe of Sanford Glacier but were swept away by the powerful current.

A press release said, "The footprints were indicative of two people preparing for a river crossing. Over the weekend search crews found two backpacks and other backpacking gear strewn along a seven mile stretch of the Sanford River downriver from the Sanford Glacier and the location of the footprints."

The Park Service said Renken and Huffman were experienced backpackers and Renken had prior experience crossing Alaska rivers.

The Missouri Department of Conservation told KOMU 8 News the two used to work for the agency.

In a statement to KOMU 8 News, conservation department spokesman Robert Hemmelgarn said:

“Both Mike Huffman and Rochelle Renken were retired from the Missouri Department of Conservation with Mike Huffman’s last position being Division Chief of the MDC Outreach and Education Division and Rochelle Renken’s as being the Resource Science Division Field Chief. On behalf of MDC, we offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to their families and friends.”

The bodies were sent to the state medical examiner for positive identification.