WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 08, 2010, 08:18 AM

Missing Oregon man found alive and well in northwestern ND

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - An incredible outcome in the search for a missing Oregon man. Just minutes ago, WDAY 6 News learned Willy Kunkle been found alive and well in northwestern North Dakota. This comes after a plea from family members who flew to Fargo tonight to find him.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

26-year old Willy Kunkle is weeks into a cross country bicycle trip that started in New York, ending in Portland Oregon in October. But once here, Willy's communication suddenly stopped. Tonight the family is elated. A much different story than when we caught up with them getting off their plane late this afternoon.

“We've lost contact somewhere between Breckenridge and Fargo.”

Just minutes off a long flight to North Dakota, worried mother Karen Kunkle holds back tears.

“We're gonna go find him. We're gonna track his trail and find him.”

No one has heard from Willy in nearly a week. The avid adventurer had stayed in constant contact, agreeing to text family every other day.

“He was keeping to it and that's when it went quiet.”

“My hope of hopes is that we're gonna have kind of an embarrassed hug with the guy and we'll hear a bunch of stories.”

The sociable bicyclist is on his way home to Oregon, but it's that openness that may have landed him in trouble. One of his last Facebook posts reads this:

"I just got health lessons from a guy who just got out of prison for blowing a man's head off with a 12 gauge slug. Welcome to North Dakota Willy."

“It's haunting and surreal, definitely.”

Tonight, the family's hopes and prayers have been answered. 26-year old Willy Kunkle called family from Alexander, North Dakota. He says His cell phone didn't work in the state and he finally borrowed one to call home.

Needless to say, Willy is shocked by all this excitement about him being declared missing. Squad cars had combed areas along Highways 75 and 81 tonight. Authorities from Richland, Wilkin, Cass, and Clay counties and the highway patrol planned a more extensive search tomorrow morning. An airplane was staged, ready to search the skies.