JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued five people on Skilak Lake on the Kenai Peninsula, Nov. 9.
A boater on Skilak Lake contacted authorities for assistance when his boat’s engine jammed, explained Master Sgt. Armando Soria, a controller with the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.
“It jammed in a turned position, rendering his vessel out of control,” he said. “The wind blew his boat across the lake in very rough water with waves at five to six feet in height.”
An Emergency Medical Services team of four from Soldotna responded, but their boat also became stranded.
The AK RCC received notification from two separate 406 personal locator beacons through their satellite notification system approximately ten minutes apart, explained Soria. The grid coordinates transmitted by the beacons plotted both points in the area of Skilak Lake.
“The on-duty RCC Controller immediately contacted the Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna who back-briefed their response and subsequently requested assistance from the Alaska Air National Guard,” he said.
The AST requested the AKANG assistance due to their unique night operation and hoist capabilities, Soria explained.
The Alaska Air National Guard accepted the mission at approximately 7:10 p.m. and then launched an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron and an HC-130 “King” aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron, each with a team of Guardian Angels from the 212th Rescue Squadron on board, out of JBER.
Guardian Angels teams are highly trained medical personnel made up of a pararescueman and a combat rescue officer who both specialize in conducting high-risk rescue missions.
“Due to the available PLB coordinates and the strobes on both the distressed boat and the EMS boat, the HH-60 was able to quickly locate the distressed personnel,” said Soria. “The distressed boater was located approximately a quarter-mile from the EMS crew, which was located on a peninsula south of Caribou Island.”
By the time the rescue crew arrived, the winds had blown both boats to the shoreline. The HH-60 was able to land nearby and picked up all the survivors.
The survivors were then flown to the lower Skilak Lake boat launch, where they were released to the AST at approximately 10:15 p.m. in good condition with no injuries noted.
“The use and proper registration of the PLB’s of both the distressed boater and the EMS team were instrumental to the quick mission response and mission success,” said Soria.