Searchers locate two lost hunters

Posted: Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Local rescue teams found two deer hunters who became separated from their partners this weekend in the wilderness.

Bob Lonsdale was on the edge of hypothermia when he was found at 3:30 a.m. Sunday in heavily wooded terrain near Hawk Inlet on Admiralty Island, according to Bruce Bowler of SEADOGS. Brownie Willard Jr. was reported "wet but in good health" after walking out of the Spaulding Trail near Auke Bay on Monday morning, he said.

Bowler said hypothermia is the biggest danger in the Southeast Alaska wilderness. Despite knowing the area, Lonsdale was wandering and backtracking and "not making good decisions."

Carolee Lonsdale, said her husband is an experienced hunter.

"He's hunted out there for over 20 years," she said. "It's what we eat all winter."

She said she believes her husband is all right, or he wouldn't have been allowed to go back out hunting. He was due back to Juneau today, as originally scheduled. She said she believes her husband lost track of the time.

Bowler said Lonsdale had killed a deer at the side of a road and wounded another. He told his partner at about 2:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday that he was going after the wounded deer and they separated.

The search began with volunteers from the nearby Greens Creek Mine. They notified Alaska State Troopers, who notified Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search (SEADOGS). The U.S. Coast Guard assisted Saturday night, bringing in a 47-foot rescue boat to search the shores and transfer searchers from site to site, Bowler said.

Trooper spokesman Tim DeSpain said searchers made verbal contact with Lonsdale at 3:21 a.m. Sunday and began leading him out 13 minutes later.

Bowler said it took about 312 hours to help Lonsdale back to the road, from where he went to the search command center for medical attention.

Rescuers got him out of the cotton clothing he was wearing "and re-dressed him in something that didn't pull the heat out of him," he said.

When Lonsdale was found, he was so thirsty he drank three canteens of water, Bowler added.

He said it was fortunate that Willard, the man searchers were looking for the following night, was carrying a cell phone.

DeSpain reported that Willard was hunting with his son Sunday. The younger Willard called police early in the evening after losing voice contact with his father for 30 to 40 minutes. SEADOGS and Juneau Mountain Rescue teams were called out.

During the night, searchers made telephone contact with Willard, DeSpain said. Bowler said the searchers helped lead him out of the trail at 7:38 a.m. Monday.

Bowler said prevention from such incidents begins with dressing appropriately.

"Avoid cotton," he said. "Wear clothing appropriate to Southeast Alaska."

He recommended wearing layers of clothing with bright colors showing.

He said rescuers don't understand why deer hunters wear camouflage clothing, because deer are colorblind.

Hunters and hikers should tell people where they are going and when they will get back. People also should take a cell phone or a portable VHF radio so they can communicate with people looking for them.

Although a cell phone wouldn't have worked where Lonsdale was lost, Willard's cell phone saved him, Bowler noted.

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