CAMP DENALI, Alaska – Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued a snowmobiler who fell 80 feet into a glacier crevasse April 4.
According to the Associated Press, Tom Douglas, 41, of Fairbanks, landed unhurt on his feet on a ledge at Jarvis Glacier near Delta Junction.
Alaska State Troopers notified the 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at 6:15 p.m. that a researcher conducting ice and snow tests needed assistance after he and the snowmobile he was riding fell into a crevasse.
“Because of the nature of the mission and need for a specially equipped glacier rescue team and possible hoist requirement, the Alaska Air National Guard was requested to support the rescue,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Carte, superintendent, 11th Air Force RCC. “They accepted the mission at 6:35 p.m. and were airborne at 7:22 p.m. enroute to the scene.”
Using an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and HC-130 “King” aircraft, Alaska Air National Guardsmen with the 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson flew to the scene 33 miles south-southeast of Delta Junction.
The HC-130 was first on the scene at 8:30 p.m. and the HH-60 arrived 20 minutes later with Guardian Angels onboard both aircraft.
“The HH-60 set down gently on the surface of the glacier at 8:50 p.m., while the Guardian Angel team assessed the safety of the area,” Carte said. “The team leader stepped out onto one of the skis of the helicopter and probed the snow to check the stability and once he determined it was safe, the Guardian Angels departed the helicopter, roped up together for glacier operations.”
Traversing 100 meters across the glacier in two-man rope teams, four Guardian Angels moved slowly across the potentially unstable surface to the three-foot wide crevasse where the snowmobiler had fallen into hours earlier.
“The survivor was discovered about 80 feet down into the crevasse,” said Maj. Joe Conroy, commander of the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard. “There was some concern about him getting past the snow machine, which was on some kind of ledge, so we lowered a harness and climbing tools down to him so he could move himself up safely past the snow machine before Guardian Angels helped him the rest of the way.”
At 10:20 p.m. the Guardian Angels secured Douglas and safely airlifted him to Donnelly Airfield where he was dropped off with Alaska State Troopers with no injuries at 11 p.m.
Douglas said he blamed himself for the mishap, saying in the Associated Press article that he has spent a lot of time on the glacier. Venturing into an area he didn’t know was safe was a mistake, he told the AP.
“Alaska Guardian Angel teams are specifically trained in glacier operations and pararescuemen from around the country and world come here to hone their skills,” Carte said. “Our Alaska Guardsmen are skilled instructors at glacier operations and are very well equipped to handle situations like these, which makes our team one of the most highly skilled glacier rescue teams in the world for pararescue.”
The Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were awarded one save for this mission. AFNS