Coast Guard rescues rafters in Aniakchak National Monument

KODIAK, Alaska – The Coast Guard rescued three stranded rafters Tuesday near Surprise Lake in the Aniakchak Caldera on the southeast side of Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve located 150 miles south of King Salmon.

Harry House, 52, a resident of Madison, Wisc., Megi Morishita, 37, a resident of Newport, Ore., and Tom O’Keefe, 37, a resident of Seattle, became stranded when severe weather washed their gear away.

The Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center in Juneau received a call from a Katmai National Park employee at 10:45 a.m. reporting they had received a 911 call from the rafters’ personal locator beacon about an hour earlier.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak launched at approximately noon and rescued the rafters at about 2:30 p.m. The crew returned them safely to King Salmon.

[amazon-product]B000YTZV74[/amazon-product]”They did exactly what they were supposed to,” said Lt. Cmdr. Craig Neubecker, deputy executive officer of Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. “They left a plan with friends and left instructions in case they hit the 911 button on their personal locator beacon. The weather was pretty bad. We had to drop down to Aniakchak River, flying at less than 100 feet and flew the helicopter up the river to the exact location where the signal was coming from.”

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak also had an HC-130 Hercules aircraft in the area, but weather conditions prohibited the crew from searching effectively. Weather conditions in the area were rainy and cloudy with temperature in the low 50s and winds at about 28 mph.

The individuals were treated for mild hypothermia by Coast Guard aircrew and did not require further medical attention.

The Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve is one of the least visited parks of the national park system due to its remote location and inclement weather. The monument is home to a six-mile wide, 2,500-foot deep caldera formed during a massive eruption 3,500 years ago. In 2004, only 285 documented recreational visits occurred in the park. Most visitors fly into the area, but frequent fog and other adverse weather conditions make landing difficult.

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