Search for remains of Tuluksak resident halted as Kuskokwim ice continues to shift

As the Kuskokwim river ice continues to shift and rot, Search and Rescue volunteers have suspended recovery efforts for the remains of 26-year-old Tuluksak resident Dillon Lamont.

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River clear in Kwethluk River. (Photo courtesy of Earl Samuelson)
River clear in Kwethluk River. (Photo courtesy of Earl Samuelson)

Bethel Search and Rescue Chief Mike Riley says recovery efforts for Lamont just below Tuluksak have been suspended sue to deteriorating river conditions at the search site.

“They have kinda suspended their search for Mr. Lamont maybe a week or so until conditions get better. They have pulled their equipment from there because of safety reasons, getting there. The biggest factor there, the safety part for the searchers,” Riley said.

Alaska State Troopers say three people had broken through the Kuskokwim River ice near Tuluksak on the 10th. A witness assisted two of the passengers, but Lamont did not make it out. Responders presumed he had drowned and searchers have continued recovery attempts since April 11th. BSAR sent an underwater camera and other equipment for the recovery efforts. Alaska State Troopers did not assist in the recovery efforts for safety reasons.

Search and Rescue Vice President Fritz Charles conducted an aerial survey of the Kuskokwim and says the ice shifted in some parts of the river.

“There should be no traveling whatsoever at this point. There’s a lot of open holes in the upper and lower end of Straight Slough and the ice did shift within the half hour that we were flying at the upper end of Straight Slough. So there should not be any snowmachine or any kind of vehicle traffic on the river,” Charles said.

Fritz says he expects a ‘thermal’ or ‘mush out’ for this years breakup where the lower river ice washed out first, saying the water upriver is lower than it used to be. In a story by Alaska Dispatch, Alaska River Forecast Center Senior hydrologist Crane Johnson says a similar breakup is expected this year for the Kuskokwim.

Alaska State Trooper pilot Arthur Abalama says even if the ice clears up quickly people downriver should expect more ice to come from upriver.

“Looks like it’s going to open up down here before it does upriver, and if the ice clears enough to where anybody can boat, just be aware there is still a lot of ice to come down from upriver,” Abalama said.

Meteorologists expect the area temperatures over the weekend to stay above freezing.

Charles Enoch is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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