Air Station Sitka medevacs three hikers from Lituya Bay

KODIAK, Alaska – A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter rescue crew medevaced three hikers from Cascade Glacier in Lituya Bay Wednesday evening.

The Coast Guard Sector Juneau command center received the initial call from a third party at approximately 4:35 p.m. reporting that there were severely injured people on the glacier and they were yelling for help. Personnel at the Sector Juneau command center immediately issued an urgent marine information broadcast requesting assistance of anyone in the area.

Glacier Bay Park rangers launched an aircraft for an over flight of the area to locate the victims. The ranger aircraft crew took two emergency medical technicians to provide initial response and care to the injured hikers until the Coast Guard rescue crew could arrive on scene. Once the ranger EMTs arrived on scene they reported that one of the hikers had a compound fracture to his arm and another had a reported laceration on his forehead and a concussion. The third hiker was reportedly uninjured.

The Coast Guard rescue crew arrived on scene about 6:30 p.m. and began administering first aid to the injured hikers. The two injured hikers are in stable condition and all three were taken by the Coast Guard to Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka for further medical treatment arriving at 9:40 p.m.

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  1. Jeffrey J. Early says:

    1. They were not “on the glacier.” They were simply in the vicinity of the Cascade Glacier.
    2. They did not “yell for help.” They did, however, radio for help and a third party relayed that information the Coast Guard because they were out of range.
    3. The Glacier Bay park ranger EMTs did not “provide care.” They circled around in a plane a few minutes before the USGS landed.

  2. Sharon Early says:

    Jeffrey is correct. We arrived in Lituya Bay by pleasure boat on Wednesday May 26th around 2pm. We motored to the end of the Bay, anchored the boats, took the dingy to shore, hiked about 300 feet up a pristine hill at the end of the bay, took in the view & visited a beautiful waterfall.

    The glacier, far above, calved, sending crushed ice and rock down the slope and into a river exit. Debris shot up in the form a small avalanche of rock and ice. We were far from the glacier meeting a formidable wall of falling & bouncing debris.

    Two in the patty were severely injured, and myself, the the third in the party received only minor injuries.

    I took my husband, with the head injury, to the boat and stabilized the bleeding. We called a “May Day” which was, fortunately received by a boat 40 miles off-shore. This “third party” stayed with us by radio for about three hours relaying all our communication–in a very professional manner–to the Coast Guard (Kodiak Coast Guard relaying to the Sitka Coast Guard). I was on shore with a hand-held radio, relaying back to our boat. This is a complex form of communication. Much of the above report may have been communicated at one time–and thus be part of the long record. All of it was corrected through the long line of communication eventually.

    Through the efforts of the boat off shore, who relayed communication for so long; we saw a small plane circling, apparently with the EMT’s after about 2 to 2.5 hours. The Coast Guard helicopter was about 10 minutes behind them. The small (Cub or Super-Cub) plane with the EMT’s landed on shore at the head of the Bay until we were all safely aboard the helicopter.

    We are impressed with and grateful for all the support of the Boat off-shore and his persistence, the help from the Glacier Park service & EMT’s who stayed to make sure no one who needed support was left and reassured us that our boats, left alone in the bay would be watched, and especially the Sitka Coast Guard who secured our party with the compound fracture in the litter and with oxygen, ferried my husband back from the boat with a neck brace, and had us at Sitka hospital three hours after they arrived. The team at the Sitka hospital in addition to attending to our immediate medical needs, did every thing they could to make us comfortable and assisted us with travel arrangements back to Juneau.

    The two men on shore from Sitka Coast Guard were calm, professional, and efficient. They were observant, listened carefully to us and assessed our needs and level of care required quickly and carefully.