Air Station Kodiak rescues men and sled dogs after helicopter crash near Godwin Glacier

KODIAK, Alaska – A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew rescued two men and seven sled dogs after their aircraft crashed in the mountains 10 miles northeast of Seward Saturday.

Jimmy Lebling, a Seward resident, and Eric Ridington, a Wasilla resident, reportedly departed from Seward in a Robinson 44 helicopter in transit to Godwin Glacier. Due to the winds and whiteout conditions it was reported the helicopter made contact with the ground and rolled over.

A satellite GPS device on board the helicopter notified the Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna of the crash. The troopers alerted a Coast Guard helicopter crew forward deployed in Cordova via VHF radio about 12 p.m.

The Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew was on a training flight near Seward and arrived at the crash site 15 minutes after initial notification from the state troopers.

“It was a challenging rescue due to the altitude and white-out conditions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Craig Neubecker, aircraft commander and MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter operations officer with Air Station Kodiak. “We had a tailwind and had to hoist using the helicopter wreckage as a point of reference. The crash was on a mountain side and it was very steep, so we lowered the rescue swimmer to the ledge to perform the hoisting.”

Lebling, Ridington and the seven sled dogs were successfully hoisted and transported to awaiting emergency medical personnel in Seward. The men and dogs were reported in good condition.

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