A Black Hawk crew training in the Turnagain Arm rescued a snowmachiner from the ice Saturday.
In a release from the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, Sgt. Balina O’Neal outlined the rescue of a rider, whose snow machine had fallen through the ice, by a Alaska National Guard team doing training in two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
“My copilot 1st Lt. Adam Lucero spotted him first,” Chief Warrant Officer Chuck Baker with the B Company, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment said. “He was waving his hands, standing on top of his snow machine, which was partially submerged in open water.”
According to flight crew members, the rider flagged down the helicopter after several attempts were made by his companion to reach him.
“His partner had been trying to throw a rope to him for a while and was unable to recover his friend,” Baker said. “Swimming across posed the threat of hypothermia or being swept under, and they were more than an hour out.”
Baker and Sgt. Sean Pritchard, lead crew chief, landed their chopper on a nearby bar in the river, and hailed the other chopper to land. Pritchard and Baker, along with PFC Matthew Bautista and Spc. Brianna McMillen, were able to eventually get the snow machine and its rider back to shore. The two men were able to head home on the second snow machine.
“We will break from training any time to assist someone, especially if it can be conducted in a safe manner,” Baker said.
“It put a smile on my face to see the guy shake my crew chiefs hand and give us the thumbs up that everything was alright,” Baker added. “We are Alaskans helping fellow Alaskans.”