Air Station Sitka assists in search for missing hiker

SITKA, Alaska – Petty Officer 1st Class Noel Hutton, a rescue swimmer with Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, and other search and rescue workers, prepare to embark a young hiker onto a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter near Port Protection May 8, 2012. The 13-year-old girl spent two nights alone in the wild on Prince of Wales Island after getting lost while hiking. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Castro.

When Alaska State Troopers in Klawock received a report of a lone 13-year-old girl overdue from her hike early Monday morning, the various Southeast Alaska search-and-rescue agencies did what they do best. The state troopers began coordinating with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad to bring in search teams from throughout the region.

“Search teams from KVRS, Klawock Search and Rescue, Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search and Sitka Mountain Rescue all provided ground support,” said Sergeant Grant Miller, of the Alaska State Trooper post in Klawock.

In typical Alaska fashion, the weather proved to be an obstacle, and getting personnel on-scene became a challenge. When the state troopers asked Coast Guard Air Station Sitka personnel to assist in transporting teams to the site of the search, they were more than willing to help.

An Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter air crew transported Sitka Mountain Rescue personnel and search dogs to Protection Point to help the state troopers and search and rescue volunteers look for the girl.

Unfortunately, Monday’s search efforts yielded no results. But nobody involved was giving up yet. The mission continued Tuesday morning, and once again an Air Station Sitka aircrew joined to assist.

“Our first tasking was to go to Klawock and pick up seven members of Sitka Mountain Rescue,” said Lt. Brooks Crawford, an Air Station Sitka Jayhawk pilot. “We picked them up and transported them to Port Protection.”

After getting the new searchers on scene, the state troopers gave the aircrew a section of the island to scan from the sky.

The aircrew had covered about half of their search area when they were tasked with flying back to Klawock to pick up six more volunteers.

“We shut down and quickly got fuel, then took off with those searchers aboard,” said Crawford. “About two minutes after being airborne, we got word from Sector Juneau that the girl had been found.”

After quickly dropping off their passengers, the aircrew flew to the location of the search team to transport the girl and her father to emergency medical personnel in Klawock.

As dangerous as the rugged Alaskan environment can be, teamwork between the many involved search and rescue workers and volunteers brought this girl home safe. She was reported unharmed by the Alaska State Troopers.

“To get 14 volunteer members from Sitka down there is a pretty awesome thing,” said Crawford. “I know many of those people have day jobs they took absences from. One of them was a teacher who just called in and said, ‘I can’t teach today, I’ve got something to do.'”

For more information about the case, visit the Alaska State Troopers dispatch page here.

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