Search for missing Dover airman continues

DOVER — Authorities said a missing 21-year-old airman’s truck was located on the William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge shoulder Sunday night, approximately four hours after he was last seen leaving his Dover home.

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Senior Airman Keifer Huhman

Late Thursday afternoon, the Dover Police Department said Senior Airman Keifer Huhman is still considered a missing person as the attempt to find him continues.

Mr. Huhman reportedly left his Blue Hen Apartments residence at approximately 6 to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday in a blue 1997 Ford Ranger with Florida tags later located on the bridge that spans the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal roughly 35 miles north of Dover, authorities said.

Dover PD said it teamed with the Delaware State Police Aviation Unit in conducting an aerial search throughout Kent County, attempting to locate Mr. Huhman’s truck. As the aerial search proceeded, detectives learned the truck had been found.

The aerial search then shifted to the canal and surrounding area, authorities said, and Delaware State Police and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control maritime units began to search the waterway area.

Dover PD processed the truck for evidence, Dover PD spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

Authorities asked anyone with information to call Dover PD at 736-7130 or the closest law enforcement agency.

Mr. Huhman of the 436th Communications Squadron did not report for duty on Monday, Dover Air Force Base said, and an investigation into his whereabouts by military and law enforcement began.

The Dover PD said the family arrived Wednesday afternoon and filed a missing persons report.

“We are working with Office of Special Investigations from DAFB at this time on the case,” said Cpl. Hoffman in the morning, later noting the state police and DNREC involvement as well.

The United States Air Force public affairs office referred media calls to Dover PD.

Air Force Tech Sgt. Tony Gruenwald, who formerly lived next door to Huhman’s family when stationed in San Antonio, Texas, created a Facebook page at 10:49 p.m. on Tuesday to spread word of the disappearance and information currently available.

By approximately 11 a.m. Thursday, the page had more than 1,400 members and several conversations ongoing. In the morning, Mr. Gruenwald said he believed connecting with as many people as possible could help the search and the method had been useful in the past.

A poster describing Mr. Huhman was created, and information was being pushed on Twitter and Instagram, Mr. Gruenwald said.

On the Facebook page and other online sites, Mr. Huhman was described as a light skinned Hispanic/Caucasian male standing 5-foot-11 and weighing approximately 150 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes, and prescribed to wear glasses.

On Thursday morning, family friend Kerry Patton said a social media push was underway to add to law enforcement’s efforts to locate the missing airman.

“The family is most respectful and understanding on what a tough situation this is,” Mr. Patton said. “They understand that you have to let authorities do what they have to do.

“At some point, though, the family has to decide on its own plan to assist the investigation in its own way, and provide any findings to the proper officials on the case.”

Mr. Patton said he received news of Mr. Huhman’s disappearance on Monday morning from the missing airman’s father. With no family in the immediate area, Mr. Patton was the closest contact in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“I found out the first thing Monday morning when Keifer’s dad called,” Mr. Patton. “The moment he found out he contacted me because of my somewhat close location to Dover.”

The father, an Air Force chief master sergeant select, was en route to the area from his post in Okinawa, Japan on Thursday, Mr. Patton said, along with his mother traveling to Delaware.

Mr. Patton said at least a couple tips were generated from private efforts, which were passed along to the Office of Special Investigations. There was a possible sighting on Sunday night, he said, and information retrieved led to some persons interviewed by OSI, Mr. Patton said.

“Social media gives us leverage beyond just the immediate area,” Mr. Patton said.

Also, Mr. Patton believed the full capacity of Delaware’s law enforcement community could aid the search immensely.

“We now live in a society in the United States ever since 9-11 where our government pushes for inter-agency cooperation,” he said.

There was no strong speculation on Mr. Huhman’s whereabouts, Mr. Patton said before announcement of the located truck was made. Huhman has family connections in San Antonio, the Florida panhandle area, and North Carolina, Mr. Patton said.

“The best thing to happen would be that he’s AWOL,” Mr. Patton said. “That means he’s alive and safe. We don’t know if foul play is a factor. It could be but we don’t know.

“We don’t know if he had any mental anguish, we just don’t know.”

If AWOL is the case, Mr. Patton urged the airman to return to his post and face what he believes would be an understanding reception from the Air Force. Whatever the repercussions are, Mr. Patton said, the airman can still have a successful career ahead.

“He needs to realize that being in the military now is not the same as it was when I was coming through and his father was coming through,” Mr. Patton said. “We understand our soldiers are worn, tired, physically and mentally broken … and they want to help anyone with those issues.”

As a photo of Mr. Huhman in uniform circulated online, Mr. Patton said the image fit his manner.

“When I look at the photo I see a calm, fun-loving kid,” he said, noting he had met with Mr. Huhman in several years.

“Really, that’s who he is. He has an impeccable demeanor, he’s funny.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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