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'Tough as a pine knot:' Sons join search for missing Tennessee hunter in Alaska

Steve Keel's sons search for him in Alaska
Posted at 5:42 PM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 23:08:34-04

DOVER, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Tennessee veteran who was hunting in Alaska has been missing for days, and now his sons have joined in on the search efforts.

Liz Keel has spent every moment calling search and rescue crews in Alaska. Her husband, Steve, went missing on a caribou hunting trip. This is the most recent photo of him:

Steve Keel
Steve Keel

The Marine veteran was camping south of Deadhorse off Dalton Highway.

"I mean he’s been in the woods and out in terrain his entire life. You ask anybody. Steve’s not a guy to get lost," Keel said.

Her husband is known in Dover as "Smiley," and he grew up in the country.

"And everyone who knows him says he’s tough as a pine knot so he could survive," Keel said, "They say, if anybody could survive this, it would be Steve Keel."

Steve was on the hunting trip with Houston County resident, Bryan Collins. Bryan's wife, Molly, said Steve was supposed to walk half a mile to where they were storing caribou meat. Then, he vanished.

"They had agreed to meet a certain place, so Bryan had to hike there to do that, and then after that, he just thought he’d be back at the campsite, so it wasn’t like a huge emergency at the time," Molly Collins said.

An aerial search turned up nothing. So now, Steve's sons have met up with Bryan to search for their father on the ground.

"The toll it takes is more than I can tell you," Keel said.

Liz is trying to rally a larger search with dogs. The issue is the terrain can be treacherous.

There are known to be sinkholes and quicksand in the area. She’s raising funds for a bigger search by accepting donations at F&M Bank. The account will be open on Sept. 3.

"I feel like God can do miracles, and that’s my hope, we need a miracle," Keel said.

Law enforcement told Liz there were no signs of a bear attack. Another obstacle is there's no phone service, and she said only SAT phones work where Steve was hunting.

NewsChannel5 called the North Slope Borough, and they said there are no updates on the police investigation.