Kuskokwim River Ice Travel in Bethel is CLOSED Due to Dangerous Ice Conditions
Crooked Creek dam breaks, says River Watch
The Kuskokwim River at Crooked Creek today - Photo by Amanda Phillips
May 22, 2013 - At around 3:15 pm today, the Kuskokwim River Watch Team reported that the ice jam just below Crooked Creek broke and water levels in the village dropped by about six feet.
The ice jam was at Rabbit Island, about three miles below the village.
Crooked Creek 'Flood Watch' upgraded to 'Warning'
May 22, 2013 - At 12:27 pm today, the National Weather Service in Anchorage issued a cancellation of the Flood Watch for the village of Crooked Creek and instead upgraded it to a Flood Warning.
This action is due to the formation of an ice jam occurring just downstream of Crooked Creek that is causing water levels to rise (currently three feet to just below flood stage at the village) and will continue to rise until the ice jam releases. As a result, flooding is likely in Crooked Creek.
A Flood Warning means that flooding is imminent or occurring. The River Watch Team is heading to the site to assess the situation and try to make a determination upon the extent and severity of the potential flooding.
Crooked Creek residents are being urged to remain alert for fast rising water and move to higher ground if necessary.
Napaimute ice moves; Red Devil in the clear
Jumbled ice at Napaimute - Photo by Mark Leary
May 22, 2013 - Last night, on May 21, and this morning, May 22, the ice at Napaimute began moving downstream, establishing another break-up front along the Kuskokwim River. Last night it moved for five minutes, before stopping at the Hoffman's Graveyard. The water is reported to be low.
Other break-up fronts are below Red Devil and above McGrath.
In other news, the Flood Watch for Red Devil was canceled yesterday as well, as break-up there moved well below the community. That break-up front is now at Eightmile Creek, so named because its almost that many river miles from Red Devil (7 miles) and Georgetown (8.5 miles). From Georgetown to Crooked Creek, its 17.5 river miles.
Due to the break-up nearing Crooked Creek, the community has been placed under Flood Watch. No action is reported in Chuathbaluk, Aniak or the Kalskags.
Floodwatch issued for Red Devil as ice begins moving
May 21, 2013 - Ice began moving in Sleetmute and Red Devil yesterday, and Red Devil is on "flood watch," a warning issued by the National Weather Service.
Sleetmute ice and jam - Photo by Susan Hubbard
A local resident in Sleetmute has posted new details and pictures of the Kuskokwim River which show open water with ice chunks flowing past the village. An ice jam is occurring between the Island and the lower part of the village, but water is reported to be at "safe" levels.
NWS also states that there is jumbled ice near Red Devil and the small village at risk for flooding from the break-up movement upstream. Therefore, NWS is urging residents to be alert for fast rising water and be prepared to move to higher ground if necessary.
Further downstream at Crooked Creek, there has been no activity concerning the ice. Dennis Thomas of Crooked reports that water is rising and that's about it.
Parts of Kuskokwim ice rotting at Napaimute - Photo by Mark Leary
In Napaimute, the ice became darkened overnight after the first rainy day of the spring season fell across the Y-K Delta. However, water is dropping at Napaimute and has been doing so for the last few days.
In Aniak, the ice is still holding good and no activity is reported.
In Bethel, the Emergency Preparedness Task Force is meeting and will be making contact with the upriver villages in preparation for flooding and relief efforts if needed.
With the temperatures warmed up now, it is expected that break-up will now proceed without hesitation as it did when cold spring temperatures ruled the day.
Community of Circle underwater; Fort Yukon next?
Major news groups in Alaska reported on the flooding in Circle on the Yukon Rier and the speed of the break-up front, as well as, the flooding potential of next town downriver from Circle. However, the Alaska Dispatch has a short slide show of the flooding in Eagle and Circle.
Visit Alaska Dispatch here.
Ice moves at Red Devil and Crooked Creek
May 17, 2013 - On May 16, 2013, the Kuskokwim River ice at Red Devil and Crooked Creek made a shove for downriver but didn't go very far. The longest shove was at Red Devil, which was reported to have moved about 60 feet.
At around 3:30 pm, the Kuskokwim River ice at Crooked Creek also moved but the distance of the flow wasn't determinable.
In Sleetmute, where the Kuskokwim hasn't moved yet, the water level is rising and the channel on the other side of the island has gone out. Just above Sleetmute, some parts of the Holitna River has gone out and minor flooding is reported by homesteaders along the river.
The Kuskokwim at Sleetmute - Photo by Susan Hubbard
In Napaimute, the water levels have gone up considerably since the last report, but the rate of increase in depth has slowed down with the cold weather in the last couple of days. In addition, shore ice is breaking off and shifting around, meaning that the ice has lifted.
Shore ice at Napaimute begins breaking off - Photo by Mark Leary
In Aniak, where water along the banks is rising also, it was reported that an area of open water appeared in front of the community, but that ice from the Aniak filled it in. It is also reported that people are already boating in the Aniak.
On the Yukon side, both Dawson in Yukon Territory and Eagle in Alaska have experienced break-up, and flooding is occurring in Eagle. On the Tanana River, break-up is also occurring and flooding to the point where a portion of the Old Richardson Highway is inundated with water.
The Yukon flowing freely in Dawson on May 16 - Webcam photo www.yukonbreakup.com
In other news, the Kuskokwim River Watch Team is now airborne since yesterday May 16. They will monitor break-up all along the Kuskokwim until it is over and all dangers from flooding have subsided.
River ice reports begin flowing in
May 13, 2013 - Reports from Stony River and Napaimute about river conditions were sent to BSAR this past weekend and today by SAR volunteers, as well as from the National Weather Service and BSAR supporters.
According to the NWS, a cooling trend in the weather is forecast for this week, slowing spring thaw and break-up. If the weather continues to remain cool for the next 2-3 weeks, break-up will most likely be an uneventful one. However, if temperatures shoot up suddenly, a "dynamic" or mechanical break-up can occur due to sudden thaw and the onrush of water.
At Nikolai, where it broke up last week, an ice jam occurred downstream of the village. No flooding is reported. At McGrath, ice continued to hold with "lots of overflow" but with no leads occurring along the river.
A May 13, 2013 photo of the Kuskowim at McGrath, showing dark water along the bank. A webcam photo from www.borealisbroadband.net.
At Stony River, water or overflow is building up on both sides of the Kuskokwim and sloughs, but the ice is still holding good, according to SAR volunteer Robert Gusty Sr. of Stony. However, Robert said there's open water in a number of locations and that travel by snowmachine is "no longer safe".
At Napaimute, the creeks are "throwing water hard" now, per BSAR Mark Leary. Still there is little water along the main Kuskokwim, mostly along the edge if any. However, the channel that runs along the hillside just above Napaimute is opening up and getting dangerous for river travel, Mark said.
The Kuskokwim River ice below Napaimute on May 12, 2013. Photo by Mark Leary.
At the last ice check, the Kuskokwim River was 57", nearly 5 feet, in thickness. The river was considered still safe for travel, according to Mike Riley, BSAR President, but places to watch out for are streams and lakes along overland routes.
In other news, the River Watch team is now deployed beginning today for the Upper Yukon, while the RW team for the Kuskokwim River will begin this week on Tuesday for the Upper Kuskokwim. More info about the RW team can be found at the KYUK website.
Kuskokwim River break-up begins at Nikolai
May 10, 2013 - Today the National Weather Service reported that the Kuskokwim River went out at Nikolai last night. The water level was reported to be low.
On the Yukon River side, breaking up is hard to do. Only the upper Tanana River around Northway is beginning to open up.
A picture of the Yukon River on May 10 at Dawson, Yukon Territory, showed the Yukon River ice was still pretty much intact but leads appear to be developing.
Tuntutuliak conducts short SAR
May 10, 2013 - On Tuesday, May 7, 2013, the Alaska State Troopers were notified by VPO Sally Andrew around 11:45 am that two men traveling on one snowmachine were seen on the river on a trail to Tuntutuliak, and that they were intoxicated and appeared to have broken down.
A search was initiated for the two men but they weren't located. Later, in the afternoon around 3 pm, one of the men, 41-year-old Casey Lewis, was seen in the village by VPO Andrew.
Lewis related to the VPO that he had left the other man, 61-year-old Pat Pavilla, behind after he jumped off the snowmachine. At some point in time, Lewis returned to Pavilla and found him on the ground. Lewis checked for vitals on Pavilla, and finding none, returned to the village to make his report when he made contact with VPO Andrew.
Two hasty teams, consisting of two SARs each, then went searching again but couldn't find Pavilla for another four hours.
Finally, at 7 pm, an aircraft assisting in the search spotted Pavilla walking on the trail. The aircraft alerted ground searchers, one of whom went and picked him up. Pavilla was uninjured and appeared to be in good health.
After contact with Pavilla, VPO Andrew reported that searchers had been unable to find him because he had wandered into the brush and fell asleep, even though they drove next to his sleeping location.
It wasn't until Pavilla awoke to the sound of aircraft when he moved out of the brush and was finally spotted.
For his part, Pavilla said he had left Lewis passed out on the trail to walk home.
Disaster Preparedness Team begins meeting
Alaska State Troopers Perry Barr and Todd Womack, AVCP's Alvin Jimmie and Jim Wykoff, YKHC's Brian Lefferts, LKSD's Jack Hopstad, AVCP's Denise Nerby, and BSAR/AVCP Housing's Allen Joseph (taking picture) discuss emergency plans in anticipation of flooding in the spring of 2013.
On May 3, 2013, a group of representatives from various organizations met in what will be the first of many meetings overseeing the spring break-up of 2013. The group met at AVCP's conference room.
The topic of the meeting was "Flood Watch 2013" and the goal of the meeting was to prepare certain organizations in Bethel and villages for one or more flooding events along the Kuskokwim River.
The idea or purpose of the group's formation is so that assistance to communities that experience disasters is faster and more organized. In the past, help and planning for assistance to communities only came after disasters struck and usually it was up to only one or two organizations to provide aid, limiting assistance.
Discussion items included how villages are now assisted in getting prepared in case of flooding, who the incident commanders are in those villages, and shelters and/or evacuation plans for flooding refuges in the event of disasters.
An action item from this meeting was to make sure the main governing body of each community is aware of the planning efforts and how they can be involved during actual disaster events.
The team has been meeting for nearly two years, when it was first prompted to by a series of floods affecting several villages up and down the Kuskokwim River in the spring of 2011. Today, the team is organized to oversee more than just floods, but other natural disasters or man-made accidents that may affect Bethel and the surrounding villages.
The members of the Disaster Preparedness Team includes representatives from the National Guard, Alaska State Troopers, City of Bethel, AVCP, Red Cross, AVCP Housing, YKHC, LKSD, Public Health Nurses, Homeland Security, and other organizations.
It is expected that some flooding will occur in the spring of 2013 in both the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers due to the winter's heavy snowfall, late winter or long cold spring, and thick river ice. However, it is unknown at this point which communities may be affected, or if flooding will actually occur. In any case, it is best to be prepared.
The next meeting is set for May 17, or when break-up occurs at McGrath, whichever comes first.
St. Mary's men rescued on Portage Trail
On April 17, 2013, two St. Mary's men--40-year-old Jake Prince and 30-year-old Aaron Elia--riding on one snowmachine were reported out of gas the night before on the Portage Trail (Russian Mission-Kalskag trail) by Russian Mission Search and Rescue Coordinator Daryl Polty to the Alaska State Troopers in Aniak.
A hasty team had gone out then to render assistance but failed to find them in the dark. Another crew of two searchers were dispatched again in the morning and this time they found the men about 10:00 am on the Portage Trail in good condition.
The men said they were towing a disabled snowmachine when they broke down around 6:00 pm about 20 miles east of Russian Mission.
Search ends for Harvey Pitka
Ray Marth missing again
March 14, 2013 -- On Wednesday, March 13, the search for Harvey Pitka ended after his remains were found by an 8-man BSAR crew some 27 miles north of Bethel. The BSAR crew was accompanied by a Marshall SAR crew.
The BSAR crews were able to find Pitka by following a set of footprints that faded in and out on top of snow. He had walked a little more than five miles from his snowmachine before he came to rest in a patch of brush and tried to make shelter. Evidence at the scene suggests that he had gotten wet and hung socks to dry on nearby branches. However, he was not dressed for the weather and appeared to have succumbed to the elements while in his shelter.
He was found by the BSAR crew about 6:00 in the evening. After an investigation by the Alaska State Troopers of the scene, all SAR crews were notified to stand down and return to their villages. Pitka's remains were then brought to Bethel by snowmachine. The BSARs arrived in Bethel around 10 pm, after which the body was turned over to the waiting Troopers, who will ship the body to Anchorage for autopsy.
Earlier on March 13, BSAR was notified that Ray Marth was missing again, along with three other men and his nine-year-old son. Word is that Marth and the others had left on March 12 to retrieve the snowmachine and other items that he had left behind last week in the wilderness (when he went missing for the first time) and didn't return.
However, Marth or the others were able to make contact with Marshall that they were turned around and had run out of gas, and that they were forced to spent the night in the wilderness. An attempt was made on March 13 to bring gas to them but no results have been reported at the time of this writing.
The Search for Harvey Pitka
March 12, 2013 -- On March 11, numerous search crews prowled the plain between the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, and as far east as the Kalskag-Russian Mission trail for any sign of Harvey Pitka. All they found was Ray Marth's snowmachine about 15.5 miles northwest of Kalskag, and about 43 miles east from Pitka's snowmachine. Marth was the other person that went missing with Pitka.
Separate BSAR crews meet up before going home on March 11, 2013 between the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers
SAR crews from BSAR, Napaskiak, Kalskag, Marshall, Russian Mission, Akiachak and the Alaska State Troopers (via plane) participated in the search for Pitka yesterday. The only other thing found was a snowcave made by Marth for shelter while he was traveling in the wilderness.
Marth walks into Kalskag
On Sunday afternoon, March 10, Marth walked to Kalskag and was on the trail going into the village when someone picked him up around 2:00 pm and brought him to the clinic. He later returned to Marshall.
Marth said he left Pitka on the Ohagamiut Trail (from Akiachak) around 2:00 pm on Wedesday, March 6. Both men were running low on gas so he traveled eastward until his snowmachine (the Arctic Cat) ran out of gas. Pitka's snowmachine was found around 4:00 pm that afternoon on the Nunapitchuk Wood Trail to the Yukon River near Ohagamiut, approximately two hours after Marth said he left him.
Apparently, Pitka's snowmachine ran of gas also. Marth said Pitka was wearing two sweaters, mittens and boots but no coat or hat.
At some point before walking, Marth said he was able to see the lights of Russian Mission and Kalskag, and thinking the way to Kalskag was easier, he started moving toward it. Marth said he heard planes around him and above him while he was in the wilderness.
On Sunday, March 10, around 6:00 pm, a person was seen from aircraft walking in the Ohagamiut area on the Yukon River, appearing to have emerged from the portage trail. A plane from Kako was flying in the area when it spotted the man walking on the river and, believing it was Pitka, dropped a survival pack to him.
The man was later picked up by two snowmachiners and was brought to Marshall. When they reached the village, authorities identified him as another man whose snowmachine had recently broken down along the Ohagmiut Trail.
Two Yukon men go missing
March 7, 2013 - Ray Marth and Harvey Pitka were reported missing by their relatives and friends. Marth is from Marshall and Harvey Pitka is from Russian Mission.
Before going missing, they both left Akiachak apparently for Marshall early in the morning hours of Wednesday, March 6. The men were traveling on two snowmachines, a green/black Arctic Cat and a blue/black Yamaha.
A person had brought them to the first tripod that starts the trail to the Yukon, and the person urged them to try crossing the plain later during daylight. However, the two men refused and left, and were not heard from again until Marth walked into Kalskag on March 10.
Search crews from Russian Mission, Marshall, Pilot Station, Nunapitchuk, Napaskiak, Bethel, Akiachak, Kalskag and the Alaska State Troopers have participated in this search activity since the beginning.
Search for overdue Pilot Station man
Feb. 22, 2013 -- On Feb. 18, 2013, BSAR conducted a search for a Pilot Station man who was reported overdue after setting out for his village the prior day.
On Feb. 17, 37-year-old Darrel Nick left Bethel on a newly-purchased Skidoo GTX and was expected to arrive in Pilot Station that evening. When he hadn't made by the next morning on Feb. 18, his absence was reported to the Alaska State Troopers around 9:45 am.
A state trooper aircraft and volunteer searchers from Bethel, Pilot Station and St. Mary's were then dispatched to find Nick but without success.
According to BSAR leadership, Nick had run out of gas along the way and built a fire. The fire attracted another traveler on his way to the Yukon River on Feb. 18, who then gave Nick enough gas to complete his trip to Pilot Station. He made it home around 9 pm that night.
The search crews came home later that night of Feb. 18. The BSAR crew made it home around 11:00 pm.
Caravan of vehicles rescued over weekend
Feb. 20, 2013 -- In the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 17, BSAR was called to assist in freeing trucks and SUVs that were stranded on the Ice Road between Bethel and Napakiak. Three members of BSAR, along with a donated loader from Faulkner-Walsh and a follow vehicle, responded around 3:00 AM.
The rescuers found 13-15 vehicles that were trapped all in a line and prevented from making progress by drifting snow along the Ice Road. The drifing snow had made the road impassable, and the folks in the vehicles were returning from a fiddle dance in Napakiak.
The rescuers also learned that there were children in some of the vehicles, and temperatures were in the minus 20s which drove the windchills down to 40 to 50 below.
Other vehicles were trapped further down the river and were assisted in getting freed by the Napakiak SAR team and the City of Napakiak.
After freeing the caravan by plowing the road, the BSAR crew and Faulkner-Walsh equipment returned to Bethel and made it back to Bethel around 5:30 am.
The following was emailed to BSAR recently:
"A Big SHOUT out going to Napakiak Search & Rescue and the City of Napakiak for helping about ten-fifteen cars that were stuck Saturday night. A Big Thank you to Alexie Morris and many more for making sure we all get to our destination safely...And last but not least Johnny, Hughy and Andrew for getting us out of snowdrifts coming to Bethel Sunday morning and Faulkner & Walsh for allowing Search & Rescue for the use of heavy equipment. Thank you All from the bottom of our hearts. -The John Family of Bethel"
Scammon Bay man missing on way to Newtok
Feb. 17, 2013 -- A Scammon Bay man who lives in Hooper Bay was reported to be overdue on a trip to Newtok. The man, Jerry Hunter, left Hooper Bay yesterday on Feb. 16 and did not make it to Newtok as planned.
SAR teams from the Hooper Bay and Newtok then searched the trail between the villages today. Airlines flying into the area were also alerted and were on the look-out for Hunter.
He was found just in time not far from Newtok. A storm system is moving in the Y-K Delta and forecasts call for winds up to 20 mph and windchills as low as 50 below tonite.
Hunter was once the subject of a SAR mission several years ago when he was overdue on a trip between Bethel and Scammon Bay on a four-wheeler. He was a found a couple days later, fine but in somewhat hypothermic condition.
Yukon River travelers stranded in wilderness
Feb. 17, 2013 -- A pair of snowmachiners that left Bethel yesterday around noon, each traveling to a different destination, ended up together after leaving Bethel and became stranded last night in the wilderness somewhere within 30 miles of Pilot Station.
George "Jug" George of St. Mary's, who was traveling to Pilot Station, and Jacob and Olga Isaac who were traveling to their home village of Marshall, were traveling to their destinations when they became disoriented. They found each other at some point after leaving Bethel and stayed together for the rest of their ordeal.
Yesterday, at the time of their departure, the weather in Bethel was poor, due to a ground blizzard and plummeting temperatures. George was well-dressed for cold weather and left with food, a vhf, a gps and overnight gear.
Around 10:30 pm, George made contact with Pilot Station via VHF and said he was with the Isaacs and they had been unable to find the portage to Marshall. George also stated he was having carburetor icing problems. The Isaac's gas tank was empty.
Searchers from Pilot Station then went out into the night to see if they could find them. The initial search was unsucessful, despite an all-night search. New crews then headed out from Pilot Station and St. Mary's this morning to replace the all-nighters who are tired and low on gas.
The stranded individuals and Pilot Station continued to make contact this morning via VHF while searchers scoured the area for the stranded travelers. George stated he could hear snow machines but was unable to see them.
Sometime after the noon hour, they were spotted 8 miles west of Devil's Elbow by St. Mary's-based aircraft and SAR crews were dispatched to the location to pick them up. They were brought to Pilot Station and didn't suffer any cold injuries.
After arriving in Pilot Station, George continued on to St. Mary's.
Chefornak man missing and found
Jobe Abraham laying down in the snow
Feb. 3, 2013 -- On Feb. 1, Jobe Abraham, 42, was reported overdue after going hunting near Dall Lake and Baird Inlet. Search teams from Chefornak, Kipnuk and Newtok were deployed but couldn't find Jobe that day due to limited visibility.
The next day, Feb. 2, the search resumed with air assistance from the Alaska State Troopers (with BSARs as spotters), Civil Air Patrol, and local airline pilots. Ground SARs included those from Chefornak, Nightmute, Toksook Bay, and Kipnuk.
AST pilot Earl Samuelson
AST pilot Earl Samuelson was assisted by Andy Fox along with spotters Mark Leary and Randy Turner from BSAR in the C-208 Caravan. Around 1:00 pm the crew spotted a man walking 11 miles north of Chefornak. A VHF communication with the man confirmed he was Jobe Abraham, who said he'd been walking for 10 hours. He was exhausted, cold, wet, hungry and thirsty.
But he said, too, that he hoped to make it home in time for Superbowl!
The weather when he was found was about 500 feet overcast, with freezing rain and wet snow, and deteriorating further. A hasty team was then dispatched from Chefornak in the direction of Jobe.
Earl prepares to air-drop food and water
On the radio, Jobe asked for food and water. The crew of the Caravan then prepared a package from the food and drinks they had on board to be air-dropped to him. Earl dropped the package a few yards from Jobe, and he made a slow walk to the package, then laid down to eat and drink. The crew on the plane advised him not to eat and drink too much.
He later told his mom that walking to the package was like walking a 100 miles -- that's how tired he was. The Caravan circled Jobe for about an hour as the weather continued deteriorating but they waited for the hasty team to reach the missing man.
BSAR spotter Randy Turner
Around 2:10 pm, a lone Chefornak SAR snowmobile reached Jobe and confirmed by radio that Jobe was in good condition to travel back the remaining miles home by snowmachine. At that point, the Caravan left the scene for Bethel, and in the distance other members of the Chefornak SAR team could be seen approaching the rescuer and the rescued.
All other SAR teams were advised to stand down.
Lost boys found at Nanvarnaq
Jan. 30, 2013 (evening) - Search teams were called back in the morning from the field or from deploying for another day of searching for the two lost Charlie boys of Bethel, when Alaska State Trooper pilot Earl Samuelson announced a "Stand Down" order at around 10:30 am today.
A search crew from BSAR pushes on in inclement weather to find the lost boys
A "stand down" order means that the target of SAR activity may have been located and that all SAR activity cease or abate until the SAR target is confirmed found. Samuelson had located the two boys walking on Nanvarnaq Lake, a part of the Johnson River on the way to Nunapitchuk and Kasigluk. The boys were near the middle of the lake.
Samuelson then called the National Guard Blackhawk helicopter that was also searching in the area and diverted them to the location of the boys. Both Samuelson and the Blackhawk were searching in the area where a C-130 dropped a half dozen or more flares and multiple ground crews from BSAR and several villages were searching the night before.
The area was determined to be where the boys might be located based on their description of their surroundings before their cellphone quit working and from a locator "ping" that GCI picked up when the boys were using their cellphone yesterday.
A crew stops to regroup, count heads, and decide where to continue searching
Although the boys were found to be in somewhat good condition, they were brought to the hospital in Bethel to be treated for cold injuries received during their three days out in blizzard conditions and windchill temperatures as low as -45 below. They were in good spirits however, but dehydrated, cold and exhausted from their ordeal.
When asked about the "light show" put on by the C-130 the night before, they said they were more bewildered than not. The search crews on the ground said the C-130's flares "lit up the whole countryside" and boosted their resolve to find the boys, making them scour as much ground as they could while the bright lights lasted.
A search crew makes a pitstop at Atmautluak before continuing to search into the night
The boys' snowcave faced northerly in an area sheltered from the wind. They said they saw the flares to the right of their cave but did not hear the C-130 as it was flying about. Because of their weakened state, they chose to remain in their snowcave rather than venture out due to cold and exhaustion even when they saw the flares. This decision to stay inside the snow may have been why the C-130, which was "really hoping that the boys could just poke their heads out," was unable to catch their thermal image.
In the morning, and since the weather appeared good, the boys decided to walk and try to find a village. In doing so, they were spotted by Earl Samuelson.
Search enters critical third day
Jan. 30, 2013 - BSAR searchers, along with Alaska State Troopers and USFWS airplanes, are preparing to head out again today to look for the lost Charlie brothers, 18-year-old Phillip and 16-year-old Sam, in the vicinity of Bethel and the tundra villages. The boys are thought to be holed up in this particular area because they are within cellphone range.
The boys were able to make contact with their dad, Ray Charlie of Bethel, yesterday beginning in the morning and sporadically throughout out the day. However, their last phone call came around 3 pm, when they stated their cellphone battery was getting low. Mr. Charlie provided the phone number for BSAR, State Troopers and the Coast Guard C-130 that was dispatched to the search area.
One of the phone calls was tracked by GCI, the regional communications carrier, and it was pinpointed in the general area of Atmautluak and Nunapitchuk. The "ping" was at least within 5 miles of the villages. The search then concentrated on this area for the rest of the afternoon and into the wee hours of the night, however, no sign of the boys were found and poor weather conditions kept visibility down to a minimum.
As of yesterday, the boys said they were okay and dry, and taking shelter inside a snowcave they had made to get out of the elements. A blinding blizzard howled through the area most of the day. Their snowmachine, which had run out of gas, was parked on a trail that had a trail marker nearby. But with limited visibility the boys couldn't figure out on what trail they were on. However, the boys were able to hear the search planes and chopper sent out to find them but couldn't see them either.
At one point, the boys, their father and BSAR personnel conducted a three-way discussion as to the possible whereabouts of their location. Several likely spots were then checked by ground crews but to no avail.
Last night, the Regional Coordination Center based out of Kodiak sent a Coast Guard C-130 with cellphone-locking and thermal-imaging capability in the evening to assist in the search. As the C-130 flew over the search area and teams looking for the boys, it dropped nearly a dozen flares and tried calling the boys' cellphone in an attempt to lock onto their location. The flares were visible from Bethel. The C-130 finally left around 1:30 am without any positive results and returned to its base.
As the evening worn on, some searchers and folks from Atmautluak reported seeing a light flickering on and off in the distance but south of the village, as if someone was attempting to start a snowmachine or was using the headlight of a snowmachine for signaling. Even though a snowmachine is out of gas, the headlight will come on momentarily when the starter rope is pulled hard enough. The area of the flickering light was investigated by both ground searchers and the C-130 but without results.
Search teams from BSAR, Akiachak, Napaskiak, Napakiak, Tuntutuliak, Atmautluak, Nunapitchuk, Kasigluk, Alaska State Troopers, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Coast Guard were involved in yesterday's search. Some crews spent over 15 hours in the field.
The search is entering the third day, and it's not known how much snacks and fluids that the brothers brought, if any, and they are most likely needing food and water at this point to keep warm.
Temperatures are in the comfortable 20's today. BSAR is hopeful that with the much-improved weather and somewhat clearness of the day, the boys will be found today.
Search started for two brothers
On Jan. 28, 2013, two brothers Phillip Charlie, 18, and Sam Charlie, 16, went out ptarmigan hunting along the Atmautluak Trail and were last heard from around 4 pm by their dad Ray Charlie. They said they were a few miles out from the trail near some big lake.
Another report was that possibly from there they had seen the big "Golf Ball" by BIA and left the Atmautluak Trail to go toward it, and were asked to report in but they were not heard from since.
The two were riding on one snowmobile, a purple/black RMK 550. Phillip was wearing a black coat and bibs or pants, while Sam wore a blue coat and yellow bibs or pants. They had a full tank of gas when they left Bethel around 1:30 pm to go hunt ptarmigans.
A BSAR hasty crew went out after them soon after, but they had difficulty navigating in the storm. Another large BSAR crew left around 8:30 pm to continue looking for the two missing boys but the searches were not successful due to near 0-0 weather.
One BSAR crew went out early this morning to "grid" the area from the Golf Ball to the lowest southern portion of the Atmautluak Trail toward Napakiak. More BSAR crews will head out on the Atmautluak Trail and search north and south of the Trail.
Atmautluak, Nunapitchuk and Akiachak SARs have been activated and will assist in the search. An Alaska State Trooper plane and USFWS plane also provided air support at first light.