The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Hiker rescued on Mount Benson


Christopher Edgar

As part of a second two-man team of Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department rescuers, first responders Travis Hoogland and Nick Tallman land on the slopes of Mount Benson in an Alaska State Troopers helicopter. Sarah Stokey of Turning Heads Kennels and another advance team were first on the mountain, dropped off by Seward Helicopter Tours.

A worker at the Seward Windsong Lodge went for a morning hike up Mount Benson on Tuesday, a climb which turned out to be more dangerous than it looked. During the day, the peak was intermittently shrouded in clouds and warm cool temperatures rapidly dropped with elevation. The wet and cold hiker, who was dressed casually, made a cell phone call for help from around the 2,200-foot level of the 4,274-foot peak around 7 a.m. after making an early morning climb when conditions were considerably colder.

The hiker made tracks for Mount Benson via a temporary bridge over the Resurrection River, which has been rechanneled in that area by heavy equipment doing gravel mining. With the river reduced to a single channel, the bridge allows easy access to the broad side of the mountain from Herman Leirer Road and the lodge. The search area, also accessible from the area around Jap Creek and the Seward Landfill and waste transfer facility was just outside of Seward city limits.

Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department personnel responded to the situation based on the hiker's 911 call and called in Seward Fire Department to help assess the situation and search the large area of the side of Mount Benson for the person who was unable to provide a description of his location. While BCVFD chief Mark Beals and SFD chief Eddie Athey coordinated the search effort from the roadside near the Seward Windsong Lodge, a Seward Helicopter Tours aircraft began searching the mountainside.

Leon Youngblood | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Rescue crews congregated on Herman Leirer Road near the Seward Windsong Lodge to reconnoiter the north side of Mount Benson, where a stranded hiker made a distress call early Tuesday morning as a Seward Helicopter Tours aircraft scans the mountain's flanks for the wayward climber.

SHT Pilot Mike Culver, along with frequent flier and spotter Sarah Stokey, soon located the wayward hiker, which Beals subsequently compared to finding a needle in a haystack. The helicopter landed and Stokey disembarked to keep the victim company while the chopper returned to the rescue staging area to airlift in an additional team of two rescuers. By the time Stokey and the first rescue crew reached the individual, the medical situation had become severe with the person unresponsive, suffering from serious hypothermia.

An Alaska State Troopers helicopter was already enroute, based on a request by Beals, and arrived to transport the patient to Providence Seward where he was treated and then transferred to Anchorage for further care. Beals credits area fire departments, volunteer firefighters, the Seward and Soldotna dispatch centers and the Alaska State Troopers for a rapid and effective response. He also notes the invaluable contribution from Seward Helicopter Tours, who made their aircraft available during the rescue effort.


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