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NEWS | March 15, 2022

Alaska Army National Guard rescues injured skier, snowmachiner in Hatcher Pass

By Victoria Granado Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

The Alaska Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment conducted two separate rescues with a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter in Hatcher Pass, March 12.
The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center received support requests from the Alaska State Troopers concerning an injured skier and an injured snowmachiner at a different location.
Master Sgt. David Alborne, senior controller in the AKRCC, reported that the location of the first rescue mission was inaccessible by civilian medevac and the terrain required the AKARNG’s ski-equipped aircraft.
“In an area like that there’s also the consideration of possibly needing a hoist when the crew gets there,” said Alborne.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 J.D. Miller, the pilot in command, said the flight was in “flat light,” with the terrain lacking definition, adding another challenge to locating a person in the mountainous area. He said he appreciates the skier being equipped for emergencies and having a two-way GPS communication device.
“The skier saw the situation very realistically and reacted responsibly,” said Miller. “They went out with a communication device and were prepared to stay overnight. Once they saw the weather turn they took shelter.”
At approximately 9 a.m. the Black Hawk and crew reached the skier’s location at the Southern Holden Hut in Hatcher Pass. The injured skier was then immediately prepared for transport and was released to the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center at 9:30 a.m.
A couple hours later, at 11:15 a.m., the AKRCC accepted the support request from the AST in rescuing a severely injured snowmachiner in Hatcher Pass. The conditions once again required a ski-equipped aircraft.
“For this rescue, we knew very early on that ground recovery would not be possible,” said Alborne. “A park ranger with the snowmachiners had already determined that the terrain was too technical and the person’s injuries too serious.”
Still within cellphone range, the group of snowmachiners were able to send photos of the location and the physical condition of the injured individual. According to Miller, the photos enabled the crew to formulate a more precise plan.
On location, the Black Hawk dropped off a paramedic 15 yards away and proceeded to fly overhead, allowing the paramedic to administer medical treatment without the disturbance of the helicopter’s rotor wash. In that time, the park ranger and the two uninjured snowmachiners made a trail of packed snow, leveling out a path to transfer the patient to the landing zone.
Once stabilized, the patient was transported to the Providence Alaska Medical Center and released to civilian medical professionals at 1:51 p.m.
With two back-to-back missions, Miller spoke on the dedication of the team and emphasized the expert performance of Sgt. 1st Class Damion Minchaca, the paramedic on both rescues.
For the missions, the 207th Aviation Regiment and AKRCC received credit for two saves.
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