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.