Four men rescued from Skilak Glacier
BY MAJ. CANDIS OLMSTEAD
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued four men, ages 18 to 26, after their plane went down at the toe of Skilak Glacier last night.
The pilot of the downed Cessna 172 aircraft texted family to request help and they notified the Alaska State Troopers, who then contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.
The AKRCC requested assistance from the 176th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard’s rescue squadrons at 9:10 p.m. last night, who responded by launching an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron with a team of Guardian Angel rescue personnel from the 212th Rescue Squadron on board, from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
The HH-60 landed, and the uninjured men walked onto the helo. The survivors were flown to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna and released in good condition at around 11 p.m.
The plane was flipped upside down, with half of it in a stream and the other half over gray glacial silt, making the blue plane challenging for rescuers to spot.
“They had a small campfire, which helped us find them and also offered good wind indication for landing,” said Capt. Aaron Zamora, the mission’s combat rescue officer and a member of the 212th RQS.
“They had already packed up their valuables and were ready for us,” said Zamora. “And they were happy to see us,” he said.
The four survivors—Soldotna locals—had departed from Soldotna airport to sightsee. The Cessna pilot even pointed out his home from the helo while en route to the hospital.
“In this case, the occupants were lucky to have cell phone service to get out a text message,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Carte, superintendent of the AKRCC. “As always, we encourage pilots to follow FAA regulations by flying with the required survival gear, but adding to their personal kit as necessary to accommodate for the number and ages of potential survivors.
Carte also recommends that Alaskans and visitors prepare for the busy outdoor summer season and lay out all of their survival equipment. He said outdoor enthusiasts should test their gear at home before venturing into Alaskan backcountry.