On the night of Thursday May 9, KISAR received a call from the Alaska State Troopers Search and Rescue Coordinator in Anchorage requesting assistance with the recovery of two victims of a vehicular accident in Dutch Harbor. Early the following morning, KISAR members collected the required equipment and drove to the USCG Air Station in Kodiak where a C-130 aircraft was available to transport them to Dutch Harbor as part of a previously-scheduled flight to Adak.
The KISAR members arrived in Dutch Harbor at approximately 9:30 AM and were met at the airport by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Unalaska Police Dept, and Fire/EMS personnel. They were immediately transported to the scene of the wreck at Ulakta Head on Amaknak Island on the north side of Mount Ballyhoo (53.924 N, -166.517 W). A vehicle had allegedly lost control and plunged from the cliff top, descending 900 feet down a ravine to the shoreline below. Two fatalities were reported from the wreck; one victim was located approximately 1/3 of the way down the ravine, and the other approximately 2/3 the way down. The ravine was precipitous, deeply incised, and characterized by loose rock and steep walls.
Using a main-line lowering system and backup belay, a KISAR member was lowered with a rescue Sked litter into the ravine while the other directed the rope work from the top. It required approximately 500 feet of rope (three ropes tied together) to reach the first victim. The victim was recovered and was raised along with the KISAR member to the top of the ravine by approximately 2:00 PM.
After consultation with local public safety personnel, it was decided to walk along the shore from the pot storage yard at the north end of the embayment of Dutch Harbor to reach the lower end of the ravine to access the second victim. Two KISAR members ascended the ravine towing a rescue Sked litter and carried a rope and basic equipment. The rock in the ravine was extremely loose and unstable. After approximately 400 feet of climbing, the second victim was located, recovered, and subsequently lowered back down to the beach. Public safety personnel positioned a patrol vessel just offshore and ran a rope to the beach with a small raft for transport back to the harbor. All personnel were back at the vehicles by 7:00 PM.
The Unalaska Police Department, local Fire & EMS, and Alaska State and Wildlife Troopers provided much-needed, willing, and professional assistance to KISAR personnel in all stages of the recovery operation. The USCG generously providing use of the C-130 aircraft and making a stop in Dutch Harbor was instrumental in KISAR’s timely deployment.
KISAR very sincerely extends its condolences to the families and community of Unalaska – Dutch Harbor for the tragic events surrounding the accident and we were honored to be able to play some small part in the resolution of the incident.
Following Thursday’s helo orientation on the CG base, 3 KISAR members flew up to the KISAR training hut on Friday to assess snow conditions and prepare a training scenario. On Saturday the USCG Air Station Kodiak flew a KISAR team to the site in a call-out simulation to recover an injured skier. KISAR members practiced deployment from both H-60 and H-65 aircraft and used both the rescue basket and litter for hoists. Following the scenario with the USCG, KISAR members trained with Blaine Smith of the Alaska Avalanche School in ice ax and crampon use and safety, setting up a fixed line on a steep snow slope to reach an injured subject, and then to lower the subject off the slope. As the weather deteriorated in the afternoon, all members traveled down out of the mountains on ski, snowshoe, and foot to reach the road. We would like to offer a huge thanks to the USCG Air Station Kodiak and Blaine Smith for a fun, productive and informative training!
All KISAR members meaning to attend the weekend training on 4th of July Peak on April 27-28 must have attended the April 18 general meeting and must also attend the USCG helicopter orientation at Hangar 3 on the USCG base on Thursday April 25. We will coordinate (via email) carpools to the main base gate where we will rendezvous with base personnel at 7:00 PM. We will discuss the weather forecast at that time and make any needed amendments to the weekend training accordingly.
GCI very generously made a donation to KISAR in appreciation for KISAR’s role in the community keeping our residents safe. With the State of Alaska no longer providing training funds to local volunteer SAR organizations around the state, the donation was doubly appreciated and very timely. Thank you GCI!
KISAR will hold its monthly general membership meeting on Thursday April 18 at 7 PM at Bayside Fire Hall. The main topic of discussion will be the upcoming April 27-28 training with the USCG Air Station and the instructor Blaine Smith. Weather permitting, the training will involve some KISAR members and Blaine hiking to the KISAR hut site on 4th of July Peak and setting up a SAR scenario. Other KISAR members will respond to this simulated call-out and muster to the USCG Hangar 3 at 0800 on Saturday April 27 to be transported via helo to the training site. Once the responders are assembled, they will work through various patient packaging and transport scenarios, set up ropes and practice general mountain safety, and ultimately hand the simulated patient off to the USCG helo. Members who are able are encouraged to spend the night up at the KISAR hut site on 4th of July Peak for further training on Sunday. There is a lot of snow at the hut site and snow travel and safety gear will be required. Other gear needs will be discussed at the Thursday April 18 meeting.
KISAR will hold it’s general membership meeting at 7 PM Thursday, March 21 at Bayside Fire Hall. Among other topics, we will be discussing the upcoming training scheduled for Saturday, March 23. The March training will cover general winter mountaineering skills like setting up shelters on snow, safe and effective crampon and ice ax use, setting up snow anchors, and related topics. All KISAR members are encouraged to attend both the meeting and the training.
On Saturday February 23, KISAR members set up a high-line litter lowering system for complicated cliff rescue near Fort Abercrombie State Park Ram Site under the guidance of John Sikes. We established the tension-adjustable high line which acted as a tram cable the suspended litter and litter attendant traveled down. A main line controlled the rate of descent and a belay line provided a backup. It represented a more complicated rescue scenario than we would typically expect, but offered a lot of interesting rigging challenges and concepts that John expertly walked the members through. Excellent weather and a beautiful site to practice made the training a lot of fun.
Rigging the suspended litter:
Main line friction system with a Purcell prusik adjustable stop:
Belay line using a VT prusik:
One of the anchors for the 5:1 z-pull for tensioning the high line with a VT prusik brake:
Descending the high line:
KISAR will hold its general membership meeting at 7:00 PM at Bayside fire hall this Thursday, Feb 21. The meeting will be very short.
Following the meeting John Sikes will walk us through what to expect from the training on this coming Saturday (Feb 23). The plan for Saturday is to rig a high line lowering system to help a litter negotiate a complex cliff face. Skills will include rigging a high line, a lower system with a main and modified belay line, and rigging a litter with an attendant. These concepts will be illustrated on the white board in the fire hall on Thursday evening. We will also continue to practice clear communication between members on the rope system. All members are encouraged to attend both the orientation on Thursday evening as well as the field practical on Saturday.