The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Stranded hikers rescued by National Guard helicopter

Local emergency responders were first on the scene in very rough terrain


Steve Revis photo

The rescued hikers after getting out of the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter operated by the Alaska Air National Guard's rescue squad. The five were plucked from a peak near Mineral Creek Thursday.

Five unprepared hikers were rescued from a mountain ledge in the Mineral Creek area last Thursday after spending the night on the peak.

The five hikers, four men and one woman, were unable to get off the mountain by themselves and called for help Wednesday evening.

Four members of the Valdez Search and Rescue team, Chris Moulton, Justin Major Sam Owen and Jennifer Webber were on the rescue team according to the Valdez Fire Dept.

Two rescuers were able to reach the hikers after they were spotted by a local helicopter operator. The ledge was too narrow – and wet - for the local chopper to facilitate a rescue.

"A civilian R-44 helicopter attempted to assist in the recovery effort, but was unable to recover the hikers due to the size of the landing zone," the Alaska Air National Guard said in prepared statement after the group's rescue squad was called in. "The helicopter crew was able to drop food and clothing to help them get through the night."

The hikers, said by the city's public information officer to be workers from a local fish cannery, were in cell phone contact with local emergency responders through the night.

Alaska State Troopers contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center to request help from the Alaska Air National Guard the statement said.

The squad's helicopter features hoist capabilities.

Photo courtesy U.S. Air National Guard/Lt. Bernie Kale

An Alaska Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron flies on a training flight July 10 in Southcentral Alaska. The hoist capabilities of the Pave Hawk helicopters provide rescue assets in rugged terrain.

"The Air Guard accepted the mission and at approximately 9 a.m., dispatched an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron and an HC-130 King aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron, each with a team of Guardian Angels from the 212th Rescue Squadron on board," the National Guard said.

The Pave Hawk crew was able to hoist four of the five stranded hikers into the helicopter and fly them to Pioneer Field, the airport in Valdez, and then went back to get the last hiker and the fire department climbers.

A little worse for wear, the five hikers were released with no significant injuries.

The 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were awarded with five saves after the rescue.

"They were all in pretty good shape considering they didn't have the right clothing or gear to stay out there," said Capt. Christian Braunlich, a combat rescue officer with the 212th Rescue Squadron. "I think the best thing people can do is have a plan and communicate that plan to somebody who is not going on your trip. This is Alaska, and it's easy to get into situations you didn't foresee when you left your house."


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