Flicked Bics help hunters in a fix

A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew works to rescue two stranded, overdue hunters located near Wadleigh Island, in vicinity of Klawock, Alaska, Oct. 30, 2019.(Image credit U.S. Coast Guard)

Two overdue hunters are safe after being rescued by an Air Station Sitka helicopter crew near Klawock early Wednesday morning — thanks to the lighters they were carrying.

Alaska State Troopers notified the Coast Guard shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday that a 17-foot skiff with two people aboard was overdue from a hunting trip roughly 20 miles northwest of Klawock on Prince of Wales Island. The hunters reportedly departed at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday with plans to proceed to Salt Lake Bay. They were expected back in Klawock by 4:00 p.m. that afternoon.

Alaska State Troopers initiated a search by 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, covering Klawock to Warm Chuck Inlet, but were unable to locate the missing pair. The Coast Guard subsequently issued an urgent marine information broadcast, and diverted the Cutter Bailey Barco to assist in the search. 

Once the Air Station Sitka helicopter arrived, the crew dropped a marker buoy to measure the surface ocean currents and assist with locating the missing men. 

In a news release, helicopter co-pilot Lt. Michael Klakring said that the air crew located a vessel matching the description of the hunters’ boat anchored in a small cove by Wadleigh Island. When the helicopter circled back, the pilots observed small, flashing lights in their night-vision goggles. The lights proved to be lighters carried by the hunters. 

Both men were safely hoisted and then transported to Klawock emergency medical services personnel for further evaluation. Both were reported to have been in good condition upon transfer. 

Co-pilot Klakring reported that one of the hunters had unsuccessfully attempted to hike across the island overnight. He said the importance of a float plan, signaling device — in this case, lighters — and personal locator beacon or GPS device “cannot be overstated in the Alaskan environment, no matter how close or familiar an outing might be.”

Weather conditions on scene at the time of the rescue included winds of 29 miles per hour, gusting to 35, with 4-foot seas and limited visibility.

Robert Woolsey is the news director at KCAW in Sitka.

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