Juneau hikers, Gustavus pilots rescued from beach

One plane crashed, another got stuck in mud NW of Gustavus

Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2005

SITKA - Three hikers and two pilots were rescued from a beach near Cape Fairweather after one plane crashed and another got stuck in the mud.

The five were rescued by a Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, according to the Sitka Sentinel.

The Coast Guard said the two Gustavus-based pilots and three Juneau hikers were all in good condition when they were rescued at about 10 p.m. Tuesday on a beach about 150 miles northwest of Sitka.

The two single-engine planes were not equipped with floats. The pilots had attempted to land them on the beach.

The Coast Guard identified the hikers as John Hudson, Ema Brown and Jack Stenson. They were dropped off Friday at Lituya Bay. The names of the two pilots also rescued were not available. All five people were brought to Sitka Tuesday night.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Travers, who piloted the rescue helicopter, said Air Station Sitka received a report at 2:30 p.m. that flares had been spotted near Cape Fairweather.

The Coast Guard sent a helicopter, which found people on the beach who had spelled out the words "WILSON AIR" in the sand.

By VHF radio they told the Coast Guard crew they were not in distress, but were unable to continue their hike north to Dry Bay because a swollen river was blocking their way.

The hikers asked the Coast Guard to ask Wilson Air in Gustavus to pick them up there instead of looking for them at their prearranged pickup point. The helicopter crew relayed the message and returned to Sitka.

At about 7:40 p.m. Travers said the Coast Guard received a report that a single-engine Wilson Air plane had not closed out its flight plan and was overdue.

At about that time, the Coast Guard also received an emergency signal from the Cape Fairweather vicinity.

Travers said the Coast Guard launched a helicopter at 8:50 p.m., which got on the scene at about 10 p.m. While the rescue helicopter was en route, the Coast Guard received word that a plane had crashed near Cape Fairweather but that the pilot was uninjured.

Travers said he was also advised that a privately operated helicopter and a Piper Cherokee fixed wing aircraft from Gustavus also were heading to the scene.

Travers said the Coast Guard contacted the private helicopter and told it the Coast Guard would take over the rescue, but wasn't able to contact the Cherokee.

When the Jayhawk helicopter arrived over the Fairweather beach, one of the planes was spotted on its back below the high tide level and the other was stuck in the mud on the beach.

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