Sitka Coast Guard crew rescue 3 kayakers near Haines
Three kayakers were safely rescued by a helicopter crew from Sitka Air Force Base after capsizing in the Chilkat River on Sunday (7/18/21) overnight, about 18 miles from Haines.
A paddler and two women were separated after capsizing their kayaks and a raft, and ran aground at various locations along the river. One of the parties alerted the authorities to the situation using a satellite communication device called “InReach”.
Tyler Conners, the lifeguard swimmer who participated in the mission, said the group had covered their bases.
“They were about as well prepared as they could get. They all had InReach which was great for them. It helped them get in touch with [Alaska] State Troopers and then give us some sort of what their situation was and where they were at. And then drysuits and life jackets as well, ”Conners said.
“They seemed a little nervous,” he continued. “The one on the cliff was particularly a little scared… just scared of the situation he was in.”
The Chilkat is a fast-flowing glacial river. Conners says each of the kayakers was in a unique situation that created challenges for the helicopter crew when they arrived shortly before 10:30 p.m.
“It was especially difficult to save these guys because, mainly because of the positions they were in. The first man was on an island sort of in the middle of the river. He wasn’t super tough. The other two females on the bank were particularly difficult because one of them was on some kind of steep bank. Quite difficult to access and very slippery, ”he said. “And then the other was sort of trapped almost in this kind of cave right by the river with a tree over his head and his kayak blocking the entrance.”
Conners says it took about 45 minutes to hoist the three kayakers aboard the helicopter. The trio were airlifted to Haines Airport where they were met by EMS personnel. No serious injuries were reported.