Bethel Search and Rescue
Welcome to our site. Bethel Search & Rescue is located in Bethel, AK. To report a missing person in the Bethel region, call 911 or 545-HELP.

BSAR conducts search and rescue missions in Bethel and surrounding villages in coordination with the Alaska State Troopers, Bethel Police, Village Safety Police Officers, and other SAR teams from area villages.





BSAR thanks the following donors for their much-appreciated support:




Bethel Search and Rescue

is a 14(c)(3) non-profit that operates on the support of the people and organizations in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region and beyond. By supporting BSAR, supporters become partners in SAR missions. Each supporter should know that when a SAR mission is completed or successful, they have made it possible to find lost victims. Many thanks to all of our supporters, both individuals and businesses.

Mighty Mouse ses...

...And Proud Of It!


We will update this site in the very near future. Please keep tuned.



No results in search for Kotlik boy

A SAR canine meets residents on arrival in Kotlik last week to aid in the search for a missing 4-year-old boy. Photo by Earl Samuelson.

May 27, 2014

Kotlik - Nothing is coming up for volunteers looking for the 4-year-old boy missing in Kotlik despite an exhaustive search, says a source close to the SAR effort for the child.

The search is spanning an area from the village to the Norton Sound, and since Kotlik is not a large village, volunteers are not in huge numbers. However, volunteers from Marshall are willing to head to Kotlik if they can find a way down to relieve searchers that have been looking for the last nine days.

The three SAR dogs from Anchorage returned to their home base on Sunday. The Alaska State Troopers has two boats in the search but are soon to begin winding down their efforts as well.

When the State withdraws from the search, village searchers will be on their own and depend on donations or their own resources to keep looking.


Search for boy turns into recovery effort

May 22, 2014

Kotlik - New information revealed during a SAR debriefing this morning in Kotlik has searchers focusing today on a certain section of the river alongside the village.

It was reported that the 4-year-old boy was playing with others near the riverbank when he slipped and fell into the river. Another boy tried to save him but couldn't.

Searchers from BSAR and Kotlik are currently trying to find the boy's body using underwater cameras, sonar and drag equipment.

Also on the scene are Alaska State Troopers and SAR dogs from Anchorage which are assisting in trying to find the boy.

Also see KYUK's story here.


BSAR search team heads to Kotlik

May 21, 2014

BSAR Headquarters - BSAR volunteers Sam Samuelson, Bob Samuelson, and Jim Pete have gone and arrived in Kotlik today to assist with the search of the 4 year-old child that has been missing since May 19.

The BSARs brought along with them two underwater cameras and one sonar, along with drag bars as the search has become both a search and recovery operation. Kotlik SAR volunteers are also dragging the Kotlik Slough.


Missing child in Kotlik prompts search

May 21, 2014

On May 20, BSAR received a request for assistance from volunteers in Kotlik that said they were looking for a 4-year-old boy missing for 24 hours.

According to an Alaska State Trooper report, the Kotlik Police Department and community members have been looking for the child since he was reported missing by his parents. They say the boy was out playing with a friend and failed to return home the evening of May 19.

Soon afterwards, a ground search was conducted covering the entire village of Kotlik, as well as a search of the river and nearby slough. Troopers from Emmonak, Bethel and St. Mary's also responded and assisted in the search yesterday.

In addition, three SAR dogs were deployed from Anchorage and are assisting in the search. State aircraft are also assisting with the search.


Lower Yukon River break-up strands hunters

A view of the river as seen from Marshall on May 11, 2014. Photo by Maureen Peter.

May 12, 2014

Ice is making its way out of the lower regions of the Yukon River, and more ice is coming from the break up front in the middle Yukon.

Two groups of hunters are stranded in the wilderness, trapped by moving ice, say local officials from Mt. Village and Kotlik. One party of bird hunters is stranded below Mt. Village, while the other group is trapped near Stebbins. The party near Stebbins is from Kotlik and had gone into the ocean to hunt.

Attempts to rescue the hunters below Mt. Village were unsuccessful today, due to being unable to locate them. However, the stranded party was later spotted and another rescue attempt will be deployed today.

The stranded party near Stebbins include nine individuals and they have been unable to return home to Kotlik since May 2, trapped by ice in the Norton Sound. Since there isn't really any way to send rescue, they are being monitored for any assitance they may need. To that end, supplies and food have been air-dropped to the group as needed.

The Yukon River is mostly open from Eagle to Mt. Village. However, Pilot Station reported bank-to-bank ice yesterday and more ice was reported coming down by Holy Cross.

Near its mouth, the Yukon River broke up at Alakanuk on Friday, May 9, and was moving at Emmonak. Both villages reported no flooding and low water levels.


Last of Kusko ice passing Bethel

Bethel Break-Up Party goers begin arriving at the river front on Sunday May 4 as the last of the Kuskokwim River ice passes by. Photo by BSAR.

May 5, 2014

This morning, the ice began thinning out as the last of the Kuskokwim River's bank-to-bank ice passed by Bethel. around noon. Beginning yesterday around noon, the ice choked the river for the rest of the day and all night long.

Ice chokes the river up and downriver of Akiachak. Photo by BSAR.

The ice orginated from jams above Tuluksak and the more solid areas between Akiachak and Akiak, coning in as sheets and pans. Large ice pans jammed in several places around Akiachak, causing water to rise but not enough to flood the village.

The Kuskokwim is now open to the mouth, and flooding is no longer forecasted anywhere along the river.


Bethel tripod trips clock at 5:00 pm

Break-up spectators gather at the river to watch the ice move. Photo courtesy of BSAR.

May 2, 2014

At the end of workday today, the tripod fell down as the ice in front of Bethel began shoving off downstream. A Bethel resident stated he was watching the river on webcam when the tripod fell down.

"Seems like the tripod just broke through the ice in front of my eyes," the resident said.

A Bethel Ice Classic official soon announced on radio by phone that the official time of when the tripod tripped the clock is 5:00 pm.


New break-up front just upriver of Bethel

May 2, 2014

Bird hunters report today that from The Bluff Hill to Schwalbe Island the Kuskokwim River is free of ice.


Bethel ice begins pushing

Ice running at Napaimute

The Kuskokwim River ice in front of Joe Lomack Building. Photo courtesy of BSAR.

May 2, 2014

Today, portions of the Kuskokwim River along Bethel - especially in front of the City Dock and Joe Lomack Building - began breaking and shifting, and creating a pond just below the Kusko Ice Classic Tripod.

In addition, especially in front of Mission Road, the ice showed ice ridges, signifying that the river is beginning to make a push downriver.

Reporting from Napaimute, BSAR member Mark Leary sent pictures this morning of the ice running bank-to-bank with no let down or thinning out just yet.

The ice running at Napaimute. Photo by Mark Leary.

In other news, the National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the Red Devil area, citing an ice jam occurring three miles below the village.


Ice moving at Sleetmute and Red Devil

The Kuskokwim River at Red Devil, a couple hours before it broke and began moving. Photo by Karl Edwards, Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services.

May 1, 2014

At 12:30 pm today, it was reported to Homeland Security by John Zeller, a resident of Red Devil, that the Kuskokwim River ice at Sleetmute and Red Devil broke and began moving downriver in pans and sheets. Mr. Zeller will continue to monitor the break-up and water levels and report any unusual events.

The ice ran in front of Aniak for an hour and Chuathbaluk has chunk and pan ice. There is ice between Aniak and Birch Tree Crossing. Another break-up front is establishing itself and moving below Lower Kalskag.


Break-up of Lower Kuskokwim River

May 1, 2014


Kuskokuak Slough. Akiachak channel is at left and Kwethluk River near middle of photo. Photos by Earl Samuelson.


Kuskokwim River above Schwalbe Island

Sky view of Bethel from Napaskiak. Note crack below island.

Napakiak. Lead developing about a mile upriver from the village.

Johnson River mouth.


Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers begin 'mushing out'

Kuskokwim River break-up at Lower Kalskag. Photo by Earl Samuelson.

April 30, 2014

According to reports of the River Watch team based in Bethel, this afternoon the Kuskokwim River at Aniak was free as well as areas around Oshkawalik to Chuathbaluk and downriver of Aniak at Birch Crossing to Coffee's bend. The ice at Red Devil had begun to shift and open as of last night.

Kwethluk River meeting the Kuskokuak Slough. Photo by Earl Samuelson.

Nearer to Bethel, the Kuskokuak Slough, the Akiachak Channel, and Kwethluk River were open and flowing. From Bethel to the Akiachak/Kwethluk "Y", the ice appears ready to begin shifting. However, ice from Akiak to below Kalskag continues to appear solid.

All snowmachining activity on the Kuskokwim River has stopped since the past weekend.

On the Yukon side, it is reported that the Yukon River is open from the mouth of Andreafsky to a halfway point between Pitka's Point and Mt. Village. Sections of the river upriver of Marshall are also reported to be opening up.

Old channel ice moves downstream near a large sandbar five miles upriver of Marshall. Photo by Earl Samuelson.


Snowmachine recovered from river

BJ and Ryan Hoffman assist in recovering a snowmachine in Pismeof Slough

April 25, 2014

On April 22, a snowmobile broke through ice in a slough that goes to Navallerr' (which means "darned lake") aka Pismeof Lake near Lonely Hill but the rider was able to make it safely to shore, however wet.

Mark Leary of Bethel Search and Rescue (BSAR) said the slough had water on both sides and the snowmobile was in 10 feet of water.

On April 23, a team from BSAR went to the site of the sunken snowmobile and fished it out of the water, using ropes and a couple snowmachines to pull it out. They were able to drain, clean and restart the snogo within one hour.

Mark said the river is hazardous but that there is some good ice yet but that "each day there is getting to be more and more bad spots." Mark says that experienced travelers (mainly bird hunters) will be able to go out for a while yet but that inexperienced drivers "should stay off (the river) or travel with someone who is experienced."

Mark noted that at least two places between Bethel and Napakiak were very dangerous. Mark added that travelers should bring rope when traveling in a snowmachine.

Click here for KYUK's story on the incident.


Hunting for safe passage

Shane Iverson of Bethel looks for a safe passage way onto the Kuskokwim River ice below Napakiak, which is below Bethel, on his way home after a day of bird hunting downriver with a friend. Photo courtesy of Shane Iverson.


Newtok seal hunters rescued

April 22, 2014

On April 17, 2014, the Alaska State Troopers were notified of overdue seal hunters from Newtok. The  hunters - Simeon Fairbanks, 49; Cyril Carl, 48; and Brian Kilongak, 52 - departed Newtok in the morning of April 16 in an 18-foot Lund boat. They said they were headed to Azun River area northest of Newtok to hunt seals and would be back that evening.

The next day, a Newtok Search and Rescue team went out and found the overdue hunters around 1:30 pm. They had experienced engine problems and weren't able to return on their own. The SAR team towed the boat and hunters back to Newtok.

The SAR team and the hunters made it back just after midnight, on April 18, safe and sound. The Alaska State Troopers thanks the volunteers that assisted in this successful rescue.


Kuskokwim ice getting more dangerous

April 21, 2014

The river is no longer safe for ATVs, as their wheels just break through the rotting ice and spin out. Even snowmachines are getting caught in slushy portions or melt water that's getting deep, especially along the sides or banks of the river.

Straight Slough is getting impassable for any kind of vehicle, says a BSAR member who was out checking the river today. "If anyone is still snowmobiling on the river, it's best to go around and use the main river," he said.

Even portions of the river's banks in front of along Bethel are getting dangerous, as the heat of the days and warm temperatures get trapped by the buildings and seawall infrastructure along the river. The areas that form holes first in spring are in front of Boat Harbor Slough, City Dock, Old Elm Fisheries, First National Bank, and Joe Lomack Building.

Break-up is now a couple weeks away or more, and the river ice will get more dangerous with each passing day. Therefore, it is time to quit using the river and everyone that is still on it should use extreme caution.


BSAR chief says CAUTION on the river

April 15, 2014

Mike Riley, President of Bethel Search and Rescue, reports that the river is getting more dangerous with the warming days. Potholes are forming on the main ice trails, forcing commuters to use sides of the trails, which are subject to more danger especially during high tides when water pours onto the top of the ice.

There are a lot of deep holes in or near the entrance to the boat harbor. Another hole has opened by Joe Pete's camp but that is already marked with hazard markers. The trail to Schwalbe's Island is reported to have a lot of surface water, which are especially deep along its sides.

The Alaska State Troopers also report that overflow along the lower mouth of Church Slough is at least five (5) feet deep and is the most dangerous areas for travel.

Automobiles are advised to stay off the river now.


VPSO warns Kuskokwim River getting dangerous

April 14, 2014

Max Olick, a well-respected VPSO from Kwethluk, has stated that the Kuskokwim River may be getting dangerous for river travelers, especially those using heavy vehicles, due to the ice being less than two feet thick in some areas.

"Right now, I see trucks going up and down (the river) and it's not safe enough to travel. I would advise caution when traveling," he said.

Olick's warning was posted on the KYUK website. For more information, click here.


Search groups looking for Lower Kalskag man

March 18, 2014

Since March 8, BSAR and other village-based search and rescue groups have been on the look-out for Travis Alexie of Lower Kalskag, who has been reported missing since March 3.

Mr. Alexie was last seen traveling from Tuluksak to Bethel on a black Honda 4-wheeler with a homemade plywood windshield. They also wonder if he had  instead headed upriver towards his home village.

Anyone knowing any information on the whereabouts of Mr. Alexie should contact BSAR at 545-HELP or the Alaska State Troopers at 543-2294.

More information on Travis Alexie is provided by KYUK here.


Quinhagak brothers rescued 

March 11, 2014

In the early morning hours of March 6, BSAR was notified about two brothers Wilson and Herman Wassillie of Quinhagak, who had reported themselves lost on the trail between Eek and Bethel.

Bethel Search and Rescue personnel then went out to search for the lost brothers before daybreak.

Wilson, 28, and Herman, 27, had left Eek on a four-wheeled ATV on March 5 headed for Bethel. When they lost the trail, they stopped in a slough and made a fire to keep warm. They were properly dressed to spend the night out and waited for rescue after making the report they were lost.

Later that morning around 9:30 am, Alaska State Trooper pilot Earl Samuelson found them while conducting an air search. He landed on the river, picked them up and brought them to Bethel.

The brothers reported no injuries and both declined medical treatment.


BSAR searching for Bethel man

January 7, 2014

BSAR is conducting a search effort for a Bethel man who has been missing since before Christmas.

On December 22, 2013, BSAR was given notice that Preston Michaels had not been seen since December 17 and conducted a hasty search of all the fishcamps across from Bethel by the old airport, the area where Preston was last seen.

BSAR continued to conduct searches from the missing man since then. In the latest effort, 30-plus volunteers from BSAR and Napaskiak SAR groups combed the area again on Saturday Jan. 4, including the wood-cutting areas and trails in the old airport area but found no sign of Preston.

On Sunday Jan. 5, trails and roads around the Bethel Boat Harbor and Hangar Lake areas were searched with no luck. The Bethel-Akiachak trails and snowmachine trails in the wooded areas to Church Slough from Bethel were also checked but with no results.

Sources say Preston may have been a black down jacket and black snow pants, a white baseball cap along with a black beanie cap, and brown boots.

If anyone knows the whereabouts of Preston Michaels or may have information concerning him, please call BSAR at 545-HELP, the Bethel City Police at 311 or 543-3781, or the Alaska State Troopers at 543-2294.


SPOT device 'saves' stranded travelers

January 6, 2014

On New Year's Day, BSAR received a text message from a SPOT device (a personal locator beacon) asking for help from a stranded snowmachiner around the Eek Lake region.

A hasty SAR team was dispatched from Napaskiak which located the distressed snowmachine. The SAR team found individuals there and brought them back to Napaskiak and then Bethel.


BSAR holds annual fund raiser

Folks pour out from the bleachers during the BSAR Fiddle Dance to donate cash into a box for the victims of the ERA Caravan crash in St. Mary's on Friday.

December 1, 2013

On Nov. 29 and 30, 2013, the Bethel Search and Rescue organization held its annual Fiddle Dance fund raiser at the Bethel Regional High School gym. BSAR raises money during the annual Fiddle Dance for its search and rescue operations for the year.

The BSAR Fiddle Dance event included a raffle for cash prizes, a drum of heating fuel from Delta Western, a snowsuit from YKHC, a chain saw and ice auger, chopped wood from Napaimute Tribal Council, an ipad from GCI, a tow hitch from Shorty's Shop, homemade sleds by Jake Johnson and homemade crosses by Don Johnson, and gift certifcates from Crowley's.

Three beautiful homemade Yupik parkas made by Olga Riley were also raffled off. During the event, the VFW in Bethel presented a check for $5,000. The Kusko 300 organization also contributed $1,000.

This year's included a prayer and donation event for the victims of the caravan crash on Friday night that killed four people and injured 6 near St. Mary's. A prayer and song was held by elder Paul John of Toksook Bay, afterwhich a cardboard box was placed in the middle of the floor and everyone was asked to donate cash. Audience members streams out the bleachers and filled up the box with about $1,500 in cash.

During this time, the BSAR organization hands out awards for certain recognitions. This year's Business of the Year is ERA Aviation. The Elder Search and Rescue Volunteer of the Year is Henry Tikiun, Sr. of Atmautluak. The BSAR Rookie of the Year is Francis Harpak. Finally, the BSAR Member of the Year is Allen Joseph.

This year's annual BSAR fund raiser was a huge success, said BSAR President Mike Riley. "I would like to thank all the businesses who gave to the event and all who came to the fiddle dance," he said. "Without your support, the fund raiser wouldn't be a 'big hit'. Much thanks to the VFW and the Kusko 300 group for their donations."

This year, the BSAR Fiddle Dance was made possible by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, under whose gaming permit the event was held.


Alakanuk elder goes missing

December 1, 2013

Yesterday, Nov. 30, 2013, Gus Lee, and elder in Alakanuk went missing after taking off to check his blackfish traps in the afternoon, but did not return as expected.

A hasty crew of three SAR volunteers went out into the night to see if they could locate him but could not. The crew then returned to Alakanuk to make another attempt in the morning.

Three search crews began searching today, and they were assisted by DPS aircraft. Mr. Lee was found along the coast cold and wet. He had gotten disoriented and ended up along the seashore, and had gotten stuck.

The search crews brought him home immediately to Alakanuk where he is reported to be doing fine.