Wrangell-St. Elias
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The following Incident Reports were extracted from the NPS Morning Reports/Coalition Reports from 1989-2024. They are not a complete record of all incidents which occurred in this park during this timeframe.


INCIDENTS

Tuesday, July 8, 1986
Wrangell-St. Elias - Boating Fatality

Boating accident -- probably drowning. No details. Jack Lake on the Nebesna Rd. in Wrangells. J.D.M. (8/12/56) apparent drowning victim. No body recovery at time of report. Search underway for body.


Tuesday, July 8, 1986
Virgin Islands - Accidental Death

The following information was called in to the Washington Office at 1350 hours on Monday, July 7, 1986 by Captain Donald Russell, Law Enforcement Specialist Southeast Regional Office.

A five year old juvenile, K.D-S. was found dead in Park Housing (Wentburg Residence 16) at Virgin Islands National Park at 0930 hrs. on Monday July 7, 1986. The youth had sustained a fatal gun shot wound. As of this time, the death is under investigation by the St. Thomas Police. Detective Osmond Bryant has been assigned the case.

The death is currently being classified as accidental. The father, J.D., a park employee had told authorities that the weapon, a .380 caliber automatic revolver, had been thrown in the bushes, however it was later found in a drawer in the house. There were no powder burns found on the child.

The above information was relayed to the Southeast Regional Office by Superintendent Noel J. Pachta at 1356 hours today's date.


Friday, August 29, 1986
86-1 - Wrangell-St. Elias - Search

Location: Orange Hill, upper Nebesna River

The party listed below flew to Orange Hill in a Cessna 172 (#N64246) to hunt on 8/26. The pilot, B.C., went in one direction and the other two went in another direction. They planned to meet at the aircraft in the late afternoon of the 26th. B.C. arrived, but the other two did not show up. B.C. flew around the area, searching for them, but had no luck; he then contacted the state police. R.M. and S. are lightly dressed and not prepared for overnight stays. Ranger Jim Hannah contacted the Alaska state police at 6:20 pm on the 27th to determine what has transpired to date. Two rangers from the park will be joining the search along with a SAR dog (if needed). Civil air patrol is conducting an aerial search; state police and the park both have helicopters available. The park was to join the air search on the 28th. The forecast is for overcast and rainy weather with temperatures in the upper to mid-30's at night.

86-1A - Wrangell-St. Elias - Follow-up: Search

Location: Orange Hill

The two lost hunters were found in the park, healthy and unharmed.


June 24, 1988
88-116 - Wrangell-St. Elias - Climbing Fatalities

Location: Mount Blackburn

Four Japanese climbers were in the process of descending from one climbing camp to another on the 21st when a three-foot thick slab of ice broke loose 30 feet above them and caused an avalanche which swept 49-year-old S.O. and 30-year-old T.M. down approximately 4,000' of vertical rock bands, ice falls and hanging glaciers. Expedition leader Y.T. was near the edge of the avalanche and was carried about 30' downslope before he was belayed to a stop by S.Y., the fourth climber. Y.T. was not injured. The two climbers tried to reach their comrades, but were unable to descend further than about 500' due to extremely hazardous conditions. They then descended to their base camp and unsuccessfully attempted to obtain assistance with their portable CB radio. The two were picked up by a scheduled air taxi the next day; the pilot advised park rangers at Gulkana of the incident, and a search was organized by rangers and Alaska state troopers. One body was seen at the terminus of the slide at 7,300', but hazardous conditions and steep slopes prohibited a landing. The troopers asked Parks Canada wardens from Kluane National Park to respond with their climbing team and a helicopter equipped for long line rescue. A recovery attempt was then made, but lowering clouds precluded helicopter evacuation. Rangers and wardens are currently standing by waiting for a break in the weather.

Although not mandatory, the climbers did not register or contact park rangers before the climb. They carried CB radios, but neither the park nor the state monitor CB frequencies.


June 24, 1988
88-117 - Wrangell-St. Elias - Search for Drowning Victim

Location: Canyon Falls

M.A., his son N., and 39-year-old G.M., all from Wassilla, AK, were rafting down the Gulkana River on the 20th. While running the rapids at Canyon Falls with M.A., G.M. fell off the raft, went over a four-foot-high waterfall, and was last seen floating down the river. M.A. managed to get the raft to the camp and searched the bank on foot downstream from the falls. He found no sign of G.M.. M.A. and his son spent the night in their camp, then rafted to the Sourdough pull-out and reported the incident to Alaska state troopers. At about 8 pm on the 21st, an NPS helicopter with a contract pilot, state trooper and M.A. aboard began a search of the river. G.M.'s body was not found. Alaska state troopers are continuing the search.

Neither M.A. nor G.M. were wearing life jackets at the time of the accident.


August 8, 1988
88-173 - Wrangell-St. Elias - Drownings

Location: Tana River

The Associated Press reports that three people fell from a raft and drowned on the Tana River on the 6th while filming a television program with former governor J.H. Four of the seven people who were riding in the 16- foot-long raft were flipped out by the rapids in Tana River Canyon; one was pulled back aboard, two were found unconscious and could not be revived, and the body of the fourth was found early on Sunday. The survivors were rescued later that day. J.H., who was governor of Alaska from 1974 to 1982, was not injured. He and the others were filming a segment for his program, "J.H.'s Alaska".


Thursday, June 21, 1990
90-145 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Poaching Convictions

J.F., 26, and J.S., 35, both of Washington state, were recently convicted in Federal court on two unrelated Call sheep poaching cases. Park rangers caught the two hunters killing the sheep in the upper Chitina River area in the fall of 1989. The apprehensions came about through increased patrols and surveillance operations in areas of known poaching pressure on trophy Dall sheep populations. J.F. pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor Lacey Act violation, as well as violations of park regulations. He was fined $5,000, lost his hunting privileges for two years, and forfeited his rifle, spotting scope, sheep horns and cape. J.F. claimed to be a local rural resident and therefore eligible to subsistence hunt in the park, but investigation revealed that he did not live in the area and was in fact illegally sport hunting in the park. J.S. also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor Lacey Act violation and violation of park regulations. He was fined $1,000, lost his sport hunting privileges for two years, and forfeited his hunting rifle, sheep horns and cape. Alaska Fish and Wildlife officers intend to charge both J.F. and J.S. with wanton waste violations under state law, since both men failed to salvage meat from the animals. Under state sentencing policies, they face a minimum fine of $2,500, seven days in jail, and loss up hunting privileges for up to five years. (Telefaxed report from Jay Wells, CR, WRST, to RAD/ARO and RAD/WASO, 6/20).


Friday, September 21, 1990
90-318 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Bear Mauling

On the evening of September 6th, B.B., 25, of Valdez, Alaska, was seriously mauled by a brown bear while hunting in the preserve. B.B. suffered numerous lacerations and puncture wounds to the head, hands, legs and feet. B.B. and D.D., 27, had been bow hunting for brown bears while two other members of their party hunted for moose. B.B. later reported that he shot a young brown bear, then trailed the wounded animal for 20 minutes in thick brush and watched it die. As he approached the bear, two other bears were spotted, apparently the sow and another juvenile. The sow charged Brown, who said that he was unable to fire the shotgun which he carried for backup protection. D.D. confirmed that the bear attacked B.B., and said that he was unable to fire his own shotgun for fear of hitting his companion. When the bear was on top of B.B., D.D. said that he attempted to shoot it, but that his gun jammed. Fearing for his own safety, D.D. then fled from the area and never returned to assist B.B. Meanwhile, the bear grabbed Brown by the head and hand, and then by the feet. B.B. was eventually able to pull a .44 magnum from a shoulder holster and killed the bear with four shots. Seriously injured, he then walked approximately 100 yards to the McCarthy road and drove himself to the village of Chitina, an hour and a half away. Locals summoned park rangers and the local EMS service. B.B. was transported to a clinic in Glennallen, then air-evacuated to a hospital in Anchorage for treatment. Rangers found D.D. later that night and returned him to his hunting camp, where they discovered that the two members of the party who were hunting moose had failed to return. As a search was being organized late that night, the moose hunters returned to camp. They had apparently been lost during most of the day and evening. An investigation of the bear mauling is continuing. There is some indication that the first bear killed with the bow may have been taken illegally, as state law prohibits the taking of a cub bear or a sow with cubs. Both carcasses were seized and the juvenile bear is being aged by tooth sectioning and through an examination by state bear biologists. Evidence also suggests that the two may have been hunting brown bear illegally by using bait. (Telefax from Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 9/20).


Friday, September 21, 1990
90-319 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Theft

On the night of August 25th, a trophy Dall sheep head mount was stolen from the park's visitor center in Copper Center. The ram had been illegally killed in the park in 1986 by C.W., a well-known Alaskan big game guide. The trophy mount had been seized from C.W.'s home in 1989 after an investigation by park rangers and US Fish and Wildlife special agents. Wirschem pled guilty to sport hunting in the park and to other unrelated game violations which occurred in a refuge in Alaska. The mount had been presented to the park for display in the visitor center. The ram's head, which has 46-inch-long horns, was carefully removed during the break-in. No other items were stolen. The theft is being jointly investigated by Alaska State Troopers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and park rangers. (Telefax from Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 9/20).


Thursday, October 11, 1990
90-360 Wrangell-St. Elias NP/P (Alaska) Fatality

On October 7, T.S., 74, a long time big game guide was found dead near the confluence of the Nizina and Kennicott Rivers. T.S. reportedly left his Spruce Point residence in an isolated portion of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park/Preserve on an ATV (4 wheeler) on October 1. His intention was to travel down the Nizina River approximately 16 miles and then travel up the Kennicott River another 7 miles to the terminus of the McCarthy Road. T.S. apparently intended to travel on gravel bars and to cross braided river channels with his pontoon "float" equipped four wheeler. T.S.'s body was found by a local resident, G.G., who was concerned that T.S. had not arrived and began searching by airplane. The Alaska State Troopers recovered the body, it is not clear whether T.S. died from hypothermia, heart attack or another medical problem. (CompuServe by Jay Wells, CR)


Tuesday, February 12, 1991
MIDDLE EAST INCIDENT UPDATE

Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - The park has been providing assistance to Alaska state troopers and Alyeska, the Alaska pipeline management company, in providing security along the entire length of the TransAlaska Pipeline. The park has made aircraft tie-downs, hanger space and aircraft fueling facilities available on an emergency basis, and park staff have helped troopers locate explosive storage sites associated with mining operations within park/preserve boundaries. [CompuServe message from Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 2/11]


Thursday, April 18, 1991
91-116 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Missing Aircraft/Overdue Climbers

A search for an overdue Cessna 185 operated by Gulkana Air Service was begun on the afternoon of the 16th. The aircraft, piloted by K.B., owner of the air service, was scheduled to pick up Japanese climbers H.O. and I.M. on Mt. Jarvis (13,421') on April 10th. The climbers have been on the mountain since April 4th. K.B. had been scheduled to pick up the climbers on Nabesna Glacier, but was unable to fly in because of bad weather. K.B. is believed to have attempted a landing on the glacier at the 9,000-foot elevation on the morning of the 16th. Park and CAP pilots made unsuccessful attempts to fly to the glacier that afternoon to locate the missing plane and climbers. No ELT signals have been received by either aircraft or by satellite. Searchers hoped to locate the missing plane yesterday, weather permitting, and drop additional fuel and food to the climbers, who now are a week overdue. The NPS is cooperating with RCC (Elmendorf), CAP and Alaska state troopers in search and rescue operations. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, via telefax from RAD/ARO, 4/17]


Friday, April 19, 1991
91-116 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Followup on Search

Continued poor weather through most of the 17th prevented park and CAP pilots from flying to the probable landing site of the missing Cessna piloted by K.B. of Gulkana Air Service. Additional support was provided by a Blackhawk helicopter and a C-130 from the 210th Air Rescue Squadron from Kullis Air National Guard Base. At about 7:00 p.m., the weather cleared long enough for a local CAP pilot to fly over the site, spot the aircraft, and drop survival gear and an air-to-ground radio. The CAP pilot reported that the plane, pilot and climbers were at the 9,000-foot level on the Nabesna Glacier and that all appeared to be in good condition. The ANG Blackhawk with para-rescue specialists on board flew to the site. Upon landing, they found that the two climbers, H.O. and I.M., were okay, but that K.B. had died of natural causes after landing on the 16th. The climbers reported that one of the plane's skis had dropped into a crevice while the plane was taxiing, and that K.B. had suffered a heart attack while attempting to free the aircraft. The climbers performed CPR, but K.B. never responded. [CompuServe message from Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 4/18; phone report to Elmer Hurd, 4/18]


Wednesday, April 24, 1991
91-121 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Poaching Conviction

J.M.S., 37, of Palmer, Alaska, who was arrested in the fall of 1989 for poaching in the park, has been found guilty of wanton waste in a state jury trial held in Glenallen. J.M.S. had been hunting Dall sheep; he had salvaged only the cape and horns from the sheep and had left the meat behind. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail (83 suspended), ordered to pay a $5,000 fine ($2,500 suspended), and prohibited from hunting for five years. J.M.S. pled guilty in 1990 to federal charges of unlawfully taking and transporting wildlife in the same incident. He was fined $1,000, barred from hunting for two years, and ordered to forfeit his scoped hunting rifle and spotting scope. J.M.S. has been an avid sheep hunter for the past 30 years and is a licensed taxidermist. [CompuServe message from Jay Wells/Jim Hannah, WRST, 4/22]


Wednesday, June 5, 1991
91-198 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Successful Search and Rescue

Pilot P.C. had transported a party of climbers from Mount Logan to their staging area at Bear Island and was returning for the remainder of the group on the morning of May 29th when the engine of his C185 failed and he was forced to land on the Baldwin Glacier. Late the next day, P.C.'s father advised the park that his son was overdue. Available information indicated that P.C. did not have adequate food, clothing or survival gear for a stay on the glacier. Search efforts were begun on Friday, but were impeded by poor visibility, rain and lowlying clouds. No ELT signal was received until noon on Saturday. Search efforts were expanded via RCC to include a C130 from Elmendorf AFB, a state DNR helicopter and the NPS contract, high-altitude Llama helicopter stationed at Denali. Around 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 1st, the C130 was able to establish radio contact with P.C. while flying at high altitude above the weather. The state helicopter successfully located P.C. through a narrow window in the weather two hours later and was able to extricate him and transport him to his home on Bear Island. P.C. suffered no injuries, and the C185 was not damaged. [Jim Hummel, WRST, via telefax from Steve Holder, RAD/ARO, 6/4]


Tuesday, September 3, 1991
91-443 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Search and Rescue

On August 24th, S.J., 27, of Valdez, Alaska, became separated from two companions while hunting for Dall sheep in the park about 20 miles northwest of Chitina in the Elliot Creek drainage. S.J.' companions, R.A. and K.F., both of Glennallen, Alaska, lost sight of him in blowing snow and whiteout conditions. Although lost themselves, R.A. and K.F. managed to climb down out of the mountains, find their vehicle and report the incident early on the morning of the 26th, some 30 hours later. Although low cloud ceilings prevented an aerial search during the day, rangers were able to fly in by helicopter that evening. Weather conditions continued to bar overflights of the extremely rugged terrain in the area on the 27th, so the ground search was expanded. Late that afternoon, rangers were flying the perimeter of the search area in the Kotsina River drainage when they saw a distress signal and located S.J.. Despite three days of very bad weather, a 15-foot vertical fall, a second fall into a glacier-fed river and a close encounter with a sow grizzly with two cubs, S.J. was in excellent condition. He was found about ten miles from the point last scene. S.J. was carrying basic survival gear but did not have a map and had no idea where he was. Since S.J. is not eligible to subsistence hunt in the park, an investigation of his activities is under way. [CompuServe message from RAD/ARO, 8/30]


Thursday, September 5, 1991
91-454 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Fatality

W.B., 52, of Homer, Alaska, was hunting Dall sheep in the park on August 24th when he began experiencing difficulty in breathing. W.B., who was alone at the time, managed to walk to the hunting camp where his companions were waiting, arriving at about 10:00 p.m. His friends attempted to assist him, but W.B. lapsed into unconsciousness and died at 3:30 a.m. It took W.B.'s companions two days to move the body two miles to Sheep Lake. The park was notified on the 28th, but was unable to fly to the lake because of extreme winds. A contract helicopter transported a ranger and a state trooper to the scene the following day to investigate the death and remove the body. [CompuServe message from RAD/ARO, 9/3]


Wednesday, September 18, 1991
91-495 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Illegal Taking of Moose

Two cases of illegal moose kills were investigated by rangers and regional staff last week. Suspects in both cases claimed that the kills occurred in preserve land and not within park boundaries. Rangers working from aircraft and the ground located kill sites within the park and matched bone and hide cuts with the animals taken by the hunters. The suspects were again questioned, and this time confessed to killing the moose within the park. Three others were also implicated in the illegal taking. Some meat and four rifles were seized. Each hunter will be charged $1,000 in fines for shooting and possessing moose within the park. The three accomplices will be charged with violations of other regulations, including filing false information and operating ATV's without permits. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, via telefax from C. Stroble, RAD/ARO, 9/16]


Friday, September 27, 1991
91-517 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Commercial Fishing Violations

On September 16th, Alaska state troopers and rangers from the Yakutat District apprehended four individuals who were engaged in illegal commercial fishing within the preserve. Although ANILCA allows the exercise of valid commercial fishing rights and privileges, the suspects failed to follow state requirements which dictate how and when commercial fishing may occur. The team conducted a three-day-long stakeout on the Malaspina Forelands, a remote area of the preserve. The four individuals received several citations for violations of state commercial fishing regulations which govern the methods and means of taking. Approximately 1,500 pounds of fish, valued at about $1,000, were confiscated. This is the tenth case of illegal commercial fishing which has occurred in the Yakutat District of both Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay this year. These cases have been jointly investigated by troopers and rangers. [Rick Mossman, DR, WRST/GLBA, and Jay Wells, CR, WRST, via telefax from Carrie Stroble, RAD/ARO, 9/26]


Thursday, October 10, 1991
91-544 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Dall Sheep Poaching Conviction

Late in August, rangers Rick Lee and Peg Pattee investigated an incident of suspected hunting near Beaver Lake and determined that T.K. of Woodruff, Wisconsin, had illegally killed a Dall sheep in the national preserve. Although non-resident hunters are required to obtain the services of a licensed big game guide to hunt Dall sheep, T.K. told a local air taxi operator that he was a resident, had the pilot fly him to Beaver Lake, and hunted without a guide. Lee and Pattee worked on the case with Alaska Fish and Wildlife officers and a ranger from St. Croix River in Wisconsin. T.K. was subsequently charged with non-resident hunting without a guide and with wanton waste because he did not recover any of the sheep meat. T.K. recently pled guilty in a telephonic hearing and was sentenced to a $5,000 fine ($2,500 suspended), forfeiture of his rifle or a donation of $250 to Alaska's Wildlife Safeguard program, forfeiture of the sheep cape and horns, and loss of hunting privileges in Alaska for five years. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, via telefax from Carrie Stroble, RAD/ARO, 10/9]


Tuesday, May 12, 1992
92-185 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Aircraft Crash

Three people on their way to go bungee jumping from a 238-foot-high bridge over the Kuskulana River were injured slightly when their Cessna 182 crashed 20 miles east of Chitina on the afternoon of May 9th. The pilot planned to land on an airstrip, but it was too muddy so he landed on the road instead. The right wing hit trees, destroying the aircraft. [cc:Mail message from John Quinley, RAD/ARO, 5/11]


Friday, August 21, 1992
92-450 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Search in Progress

A search is currently in progress for a Beech Bonanza with two persons on board which has been missing since Monday, August 17th. The plane was en route from Gulkana to Northway when the pilot reported that he was between 11,000 and 12,000 feet and experiencing light icing. It's believed that the aircraft went down in or near the park. The search, which covers an area that includes the north and west flanks of Mt. Sanford and Mt. Drum, is being jointly managed by Elmendorf RCC, CAP, the NPS and Alaska state troopers. As many as 13 aircraft from Canada and the United States have searched the area for the past three days, but have not yet found the downed plane. The ash cloud from Mt. Spur moved into the search area on Tuesday and hampered efforts. The problem is not one of visibility, but rather of potential major damage to aircraft engines. An Alaska ANG Hercules C-130 is currently mapping the ash cloud. Plans for air operations over the next few days depend on the results of their mapping. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 8/20]


Wednesday, August 26, 1992
92-450 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Follow-up on Search in Progress

The search for the Beech Bonanza which disappeared over the park on August 17th continues. Early reports that the flight originated in Gulkana and was en route to Northway have proven incorrect. The actual flight was from Kenai to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and the radar videotape and voice tape show that the aircraft was about 14 miles east of Gulkana when it disappeared. As a result, the search has focused on an area about 225 square miles in size to the south and west of Capitol Mountain. The ash cloud that hampered search efforts has lifted and is no longer a problem, but moderate to severe turbulence in the area is hampering air operations. As of yesterday, nine CAP aircraft, an ANG C-130 and the park's contract helicopter were still searching the area. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 8/21 and 8/25]


Friday, September 18, 1992
92-509 - Wrangell-St. Elias/ARO (Alaska) - Eruption of Mt. Spur

The eruption of Mt. Spur which occurred on the night of September 16th spread an ash plume over Anchorage and Wrangell-St. Elias yesterday. The latter was closed in the morning, and the regional office was in the process of shutting down when word was last received at midday yesterday. [Jack Morehead, RD/ARO, 9/17]


Monday, September 21, 1992
92-509 - Wrangell - St. Elias/ARO (Alaska) - Follow-up on Eruption

Wind kept most of the ash from Mt. Spur out of the city of Anchorage. The regional office remained open, but computers were turned off and covered. Thursday was a very dusty day until rain began falling late in the afternoon. Power and telephone service to Wrangell - St. Elias headquarters was restored on Friday morning, and the park reopened. [Jack Morehead, RD/ARO, 9/18]


Monday, November 9, 1992
92-590 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Ranger Station Burned

At about 1:30 a.m. on November 6th, the park received a report of a fire in the Nabesna Ranger Station, which is located in the northern part of the park near the junction of the Tock Cutoff Glenn Highway and the Nabesna Road. The ranger station was totally destroyed, but a nearby bunkhouse was left undamaged. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time and is under investigation by rangers and Alaska DPS officers. Rangers are also remaining in the area to prevent disturbance of the scene. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 11/6]


Monday, November 16, 1992
92-590 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Follow-up on Structural Fire

Arson has been determined to be a possible cause of the fire which burned the Slana Ranger Station to the ground during the early morning hours of November 6th. There have been four arson fires in the area since Wrangell-St. Elias was established in 1978. An NPS-leased aircraft being used by the task force sent to the park shortly after its creation was damaged by an incendiary device, and a leased ranger station was destroyed by arson in 1980. Arsonists have also burned a BLM-owned structure and a timber bridge on the Nabesna Road, which runs 42 miles into the park. A number of recent incidents have provoked a great deal of animosity among local residents, including NPS determination of subsistence resident zone community boundaries, subsistence board closure of a subsistence caribou hunting season within the park, and several criminal cases involving hunting violations and grazing trespass. Park staff have identified several suspects. The value of the facility and its contents has been placed at approximately $200,000. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 11/13]


Friday, November 27, 1992
92-621 - Wrangell-St.Elias (Alaska) - Poaching Convictions

On November 25th, M.S. and R.P., both of Valdez, Alaska, pled guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of possession of unlawfully taken wildlife and conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. Both men agreed to a $7,500 fine (with $2,500 suspended), two years of probation, and 15 days of jail (suspended). The $10,000 fine will be placed in the Wrangell Mountain Safeguard Program fund. Charges on a third person, R.B., are still pending. The three men flew into the park last January and killed two wolverines and wounded a wolf. While on aerial patrol, ranger Jim Hannah had observed three Super Cub aircraft parked on a snow-covered river bar; nearby were the dead animals and three men on snowshoes. Because of the short landing area, Hannah was unable to land his C-185, so he videotaped the scene from the air. The three aircraft then departed, flying in different directions. One was followed and twice flew into clouds in an attempt to escape. Because of the mountainous terrain and dangerous flying conditions, Hannah terminated his pursuit. The other two aircraft were located, and a radio conversation between the two pilots was recorded which eventually lead to the charge of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. A joint investigative effort was conducted by the NPS, Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection officers, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents. Evidence was analyzed by the state's scientific crime detection lab and by Fish and Wildlife's forensics lab. Although violations of the Airborne Hunting Act could not be proved, the defendants may be subject to state charges and could face penalties which could include forfeiture of their aircraft. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 11/25]


Wednesday, December 23, 1992
92-621 - Wrangell-St.Elias (Alaska) - Follow-up on Poaching Convictions

On November 25th, M.S., 43, and R.P., 45, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act for hunting and killing a wolf in the park. Each man agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and serve two years probation. The money will be placed in a park fund used to assist in wildlife education and enforcement. While on aerial patrol last January, ranger Jim Hannah spotted three Super Cub aircraft parked on a snow-covered bar on the Bremner River. Nearby were three dead animals and three men on snowshoes. Because of the short landing area, Hannah was unable to land, so he videotaped the scene from the air. The three aircraft then departed, flying in different directions. One was followed and twice flew into clouds in an attempt to escape. Because of the mountainous terrain and dangerous flying conditions, Hannah ended his pursuit. The other two aircraft were located and a radio conversation between the two pilots was recorded which eventually lead to the charge of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. Further investigation at the scene led to the discovery of a set of wolf tracks sprinkled with what was later determined by a USFWS forensics lab to be wolf blood. A rifle belonging to R.P. was also found at the scene. A third man, R.B., is a suspect in the case and has been charged with possession of unlawfully taken wildlife and conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. His trial is scheduled for January 4th. [John Quinley, PIO, ARO, 12/17]


Thursday, March 11, 1993
93-109 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Commercial Use Conviction

On February 22nd, Alaska Wilderness Outfitting Company (AWOC) was convicted on charges of operating commercially without a business license in the park. A total of six witnesses from Georgia to Hawaii testified telephonically in the case. AWOC and its president, P.M., have four prior convictions for various commercial operation related violations in Forest Service and BLM areas. The company was fined $3,000 and placed on two years' probation last February for the most recent of those violations, which occurred on BLM land. AWOC is a company that promotes fly-in guided fishing trips throughout Alaska, and is suspected of virtually eliminating one steelhead trout run within park waters through the large number of clients flown there each season. Sentencing will follow the completion of a pre-sentencing report and is scheduled for April 5th. [Jim Hannah, Acting CR, WRST, 3/9]


Monday, June 7, 1993
93-324 - Wrangell - St. Elias (Alaska) - Aircraft Accident

Just before noon on June 5th, an NPS Cessna 185 crashed while landing at the Gulkana Airport. Neither the pilot, ranger J.H., nor his three passengers - G.M. of Alaska DNR and park FIREPRO seasonals K/F/ and T.L. - was hurt. The plane's right wing struck the ground and the aircraft did a ground loop. The Cessna suffered an estimated $35,000 in damages. OAS has been advised and is investigating. [Steve Holder, ARO, 6/5]


Thursday, July 1, 1993
93-425 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Search

A search was begun on June 28th for P.K. in the Skolai Pass and White River area, an extremely remote section of the park. P.K., 28, was reported to be three days overdue from an ambitious solo backpacking and float trip. He was dropped off by an air taxi at Glacier Creek and planned to hike the Chitistone Canyon, climb over Skolai Pass, cross the Russell Glacier, then float down the White River in a small pack raft. The total distance for his route was about 120 miles. He then intended to float to the Alcan Highway in the Yukon. P.K. was last seen about 15 miles into his trip on June 22nd, and was reported to have had sufficient food for only five more days. He also reportedly lost his prescription glasses in a river crossing. A hasty aerial search was conducted on the 28th by rangers Hannah, Hummel and Wells in an NPS aircraft; the search was to be continued on the 29th by the park aircraft and a FIREPRO helicopter. Sean McGuinness, the Nabesna district ranger, is incident commander. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 6/29]


Friday, July 9, 1993
93-425 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Follow-up on Search

The body of P.K., 28, of Alexandria, Virginia, was recovered from the headwaters of the White River near the toe of Russell Glacier on Saturday, July 3rd. P.K. apparently flipped his small raft shortly after putting in and quickly encountered violent waves and hydraulics. It's believed that his body was held underwater for at least six days, as the area where it was found had been searched many times by dog teams, ground searchers and aircraft, including a military Blackhawk helicopter equipped with infrared radar. Resources were called in from many agencies, including the Alaska Fire Service, Civil Air Patrol, Air Force, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and local air-taxi operators. The incident was managed under the ICS system; district ranger Sean McGuinness was the incident commander. [C-C. Stroble, RAD/ARO, 7/7]


Tuesday, August 3, 1993
93-555 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Downed Aircraft; Two Fatalities

Park personnel were notified of a missing airplane on the afternoon of July 31st. Investigation revealed that two commercial fishermen had left the park the previous morning to fly to Yakutat for supplies and that they'd last been seen by other fisherman leaving the East River at treetop level in zero visibility weather. No flight plan had been filed. A search was begun using private aircraft, commercial air taxis and Coast Guard aircraft. Parts of an airplane were found floating in the ocean about five miles offshore of the Alsek River around 7 p.m. The wreckage was identified as the missing plane. Preliminary investigation indicates that the plane probably went down due to extremely bad weather. [CRO, WRST, 7/30]


Monday, August 16, 1993
93-601 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Search in Progress

An aerial search is underway in and around the park for an aircraft with two people aboard first reported overdue on August 1st. The search is being coordinated by the Rescue Command Center (RCC) at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage. A command post and staging area have been established in the park's Gulkana operations center. As of August 10th, the pilots of the ten to 17 military, CAP and civilian aircraft committed to the search each day since it began had flown 148 sorties covering 2,450 square miles and had logged almost 500 person/hours in the effort. Separate ELT signals were identified in the search area on August 8th and August 9th, but investigation revealed that both signals were activated by Cessna Super Cubs during hard landings. No damage or injuries were reported. The number of aircraft accidents within the park and preserve increases dramatically prior to and during the hunting season, as small aircraft attempt to use very small airstrips or unimproved landing areas. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 8/14]


Friday, March 18, 1994
94-123 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Illegal Hunting Convictions

On September 21, 1993, rangers Jim Hummel and Rich Richotte contacted two men, S.B. and K.C., who were packing moose meat from a remote area of the park to a public use cabin where two ATV's were parked. After the rangers learned that both were from Palmer, Alaska, and determined the location and land status of the kill site, they charged the two men with illegal taking of wildlife and operating an ATV on an established trail without a permit and seized over 800 pounds of moose meat and a rifle. Though Alaska residents, neither S.B. nor K.C. qualified to hunt in the park under federal subsistence regulations. In November, K.C. agreed to a plea arrangement whereby he would pay a $500 fine for the illegally taken moose, pay a $100 fine for operating the ATV without a permit, and forfeit the seized moose meat. Both fines were directed to the park's resource restitution fund. In January, S.B. was tried in magistrate's court over a two-day period; the trial included a telephonic "appearance" by a cartographer and lands specialist from the regional office. S.B. contested the government's jurisdiction on native corporation selected lands and questioned whether the route he used was a trail or road based on historical mining uses (CFR does not include a definition for established roads). The magistrate later ruled in a 17-page opinion that S.B. was guilty on both counts. He said that ANILCA provides the NPS with authority and jurisdiction over selected lands, and the history of park administration and use documented through park resource management trail studies and field reports was adequate to describe the route as a trail and not an established road. S.B. was sentenced on February 17th to a year's probation, a $1000 fine for the illegal hunt, and a $100 fine for the ATV violation. These fines were also directed to the park's resource restitution fund. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 3/14]


Friday, April 1, 1994
94-143 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Aircraft Accident

Around 8 p.m. on March 26th, a pilot from Kodiak, Alaska, was forced by bad weather and light conditions to make an emergency landing on a beach in the park near Yakutat. During the landing roll, the left gear of his Aeronica Champ collapsed, causing the propeller to strike and damage the left wing. Neither the pilot nor his passenger was injured. The plane's ELT did not activate on impact, and the pilot chose not to turn it on because he felt there was no emergency. The pair remained in the plane, until high tide, when waves started to hit the Aeronica. At that point, they both got out of the plane, donned ocean survival suits, and manually activated an EPIRB which was included with their marine survival equipment. They were rescued five hours later by a Coast Guard helicopter. The airplane was removed by helicopter the next day. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 3/31]


Thursday, December 8, 1994
94-663 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Hunting Violations

On November 23rd, a summons was issued to J.R.L., 30, of Valdez, Alaska, for three game violations and two counts of Lacey Act violations stemming from a hunting trip which took place in the preserve on September 6th and 7th. Acting on a tip from an air taxi operator, rangers initiated an investigation into possible illegal activities associated with the taking of a Dall sheep and a moose within the preserve. Search warrants were obtained and served last month on J.R.L.'s residence, the residence of Dr. A.E., J.R.L.'s hunting partner, and a local taxidermist shop. Investigators learned that J.R.L. had failed to salvage meat from both animals. Wanton waste statutes in Alaska require the salvage of all consumable meat, and mandate that the meat be removed from the field before the horns or antlers. The Lacey Act charges were also based on these violations. J.R.L. was arraigned in federal district court on December 6th. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 12/8]


Tuesday, January 24, 1995
94-663 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Follow-up on Hunting Violations

Following an investigation into the illegal taking of a Dall sheep and moose in a hunt in the preserve section of Wrangell-St. Elias, rangers charged J.L., 30, of Valdez, Alaska, with three state game violations and two federal Lacey Act violations last November. On December 22, 1994, a plea agreement was reached with J.L. in which he pled guilty to one count of an Alaska statute prohibiting wanton waste, which requires the hunter to salvage all of the edible meat. J.L. recovered less than half of the moose meat and illegally transported the antlers out of the preserve. J.L. also pled guilty to the Lacey Act violation. He agreed to pay a $6,000 fine, forfeited his scoped hunting rifle, lost his hunting privileges for two years, and was sentenced to two years of probation. No jail time was stipulated. All other charges were dropped. J.L. is currently on two years probation for a previous state assault conviction. As a result of his recent federal conviction, he may face 90 days in jail for violating the terms of his probation. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST, 1/4]


Friday, August 25, 1995
95-556 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Search and Rescue

On August 16th, a local air taxi operator reported that two hunters - B.B. and R.C., both of Anchorage - were a day overdue for their prearranged pick-up at an airstrip near the Barnard Glacier moraine, that he had found one of them, and that the other was apparently missing. The pilot had landed at the strip and heard three gunshots, which, as it turned out, constituted an emergency signal from B.B.. The pilot flew the area and found him on the moraine, apparently with a leg injury. R.C. was not in the area. Since the pilot was unable to land near B.B., he instead returned and notified the park. Ranger Donald Mike and criminal investigator Tim Saskowsky flew to the glacier in a contract helicopter, located B.B., treated his leg injury, and evacuated him to an airstrip on the Chitina River. B.B. said that he'd last seen R.C. when they split up two days earlier to scout for an easy route back across the glacier following an unsuccessful hunt for Dall sheep in the park. R.C. was subsequently found by searchers in a helicopter. He appeared to be lost and unable to either locate the original airstrip or find his way to B.B.. Both hunters were returned to McCarthy via air taxi. [Jay Wells, CR, WRST]


Thursday, June 20, 1996
96-289 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Search; Probable Climbing Fatality

On Wednesday, June 12th, five climbers from Guadalajara, Mexico, were pinned down in a temporary site at the 10,400-foot level of Mount St. Elias, waiting out a storm. L.V., 25, went outside the tent and was digging away deep snow to prevent its collapse when their campsite was buried by a slab avalanche. The four inside the tent were able to free themselves by digging and cutting their way out of the tent. They located their shoes and a pack with a radio, but could not find L.V. None of the climbers had transmitter/receiver beacons. The storm continued for another day. On Friday, they broadcast a message that was picked up by a Northwest Airlines jetliner. Rescue efforts were begun by rangers, Alaska state troopers, Kluane National Park (Canada) wardens, and the pilot who had originally flown the group to the mountain. The four surviving climbers were rescued that evening. An attempt was made to fly a team to the site to look for L.V., but debris, high winds and hazardous conditions made it unsafe to insert the team. Additional flights of the area are planned, but no recovery efforts will be mounted until L.V. is sighted. No other climbers are on the mountain at this time. [Tim Saskowsky, IC, WRST]


Friday, July 12, 1996
96-361 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Rescue

Seven kayakers from Massachusetts, ranging in age from 10 to 38, were rescued uninjured by rangers on the morning of Thursday, July 11th, after spending a cold night along the Chitina River. The kayakers had started their trip on Wednesday evening near the face of Chitina Glacier. Within three miles, two had capsized and the occupants and their gear were strung along the banks of the river. Occupants of the third kayak kept it upright, but could not return to help the others in the party. One member of the group carried a personal locator beacon and activated it around midnight. The Air Force RCC (rescue coordination center) picked up the signal and notified the park the next morning. Rangers Jim Hannah and Tim Saskowsky flew out of Gulkana on a contract helicopter at 4:30 a.m. and located the kayakers shortly thereafter. By noon, all had been shuttled to a nearby airstrip, then flown out of the park on Sunday. [John Quinley, PAO, AFDO]


Friday, September 13, 1996
96-525 - Wrangell-St.Elias (Alaska) - Search; Falling Fatality

On September 2nd, P.H. of Lancashire, England, contacted the park, expressing concern that he had not heard from his son D.H., 31, since he'd sent a postcard from Glenallen on August 3rd. The postcard was of Wrangell- St.Elias, and the message indicated that his son had completed a solo backcountry trip in the Nabesna District. Park staff, visitor center registers, and voluntary backcountry trip itineraries were checked to determine if P.H. had planned another trek into the Wrangells, but with negative results. Investigator Tim Saskowsky was able to ascertain that P.H. was still in Alaska through information gathered from British police, airlines, INS, banks, and H.'s family, friends and employer. Color photographs were obtained and transmitted via Internet. A probable search area was arrived at through interviews, equipment lists, books, maps and P.H.'s last credit card transaction, posted on August 7th, for a bus ticket to the Dixie Pass section of the park. On September 6th, ranger Rich Richotte and Slovakian VIP ranger Vlado Vancura found P.H.'s tent in debris in Rock Creek near Dixie Pass. P.H.'s body was found at the bottom of a ravine a half mile from the tent during a helicopter search of the area. P.H. was killed when he fell about 300 feet while traversing a scree slope. He was due to return to England on August 22nd to resume his teaching career at a private boarding school in Shrewsbury, England. [Tim Saskowsky, IC, WRST]


Thursday, September 19, 1996
96-540 - Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska) - Airplane Crash; Fatalities

On the afternoon of Monday, September 16th, the park received a report that two hunters from Valdez had failed to return from a sheep hunting trip into the park. The two men - pilot P.M., 33, and passenger J.M., 45 - had flown to the park in a Citabria Champ on September 12th and were due back by the 15th. P.M.'s spouse was able to provide detailed information on their itinerary. State troopers and the rescue coordination center (RCC) in Anchorage were notified of the missing plane; the RCC advised that they'd received three "first alert" ELT satellite signals from the area where the men had flown, but added that they were unable to confirm the reports. Park pilot Jim Hanna flew a hasty search in the park's C-185, but was unable to find any sign of the Champ on any of the airfields noted on P.M.'s travel plan. A full scale, multi-agency search was begun early the following morning. Just before noon, the Air National Guard (ANG) C-130 communications/refueling ship flying as part of the mission picked up a faint ELT signal coming from the cliffs above Hawkins Glacier. An ANG Blackhawk helicopter confirmed that a crash had occurred around the 5,500 foot level, but was unable to land near the site due to rugged terrain. The pilot was able to put two crewmen on the ground, however, and they hiked to the site, identified the plane, and confirmed that both men had been killed in the crash. The bodies were subsequently flown out to the airport in Gulkana. Specialized equipment in the C-130 and the Blackhawk's ability to fly in foul weather brought what could have been a very long search to a quick conclusion. [Tom Betts, DR, WRST]


Monday, June 2, 1997
97-227 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Bear Mauling

On May 20th, Kristen Bartecchi, a 26-year-old biologist with USGS's Biological Resources Division, was bitten numerous times by a grizzly bear. Bartecchi was conducting a bird study along the McCarthy road with her partner, Dan Ruthrauff, when they encountered the bear. Ruthrauff first encountered bear when he heard it woofing and popping its teeth; he never saw the grizzly, but continued to hear and see it move through the bushes and accordingly backed out to the road. He then honked the car horn, a pre- arranged signal to meet at the car. Bartecchi encountered the bear about 15 minutes later. She was not armed, but had time to draw her bear mace as she simultaneously talked to and backed away from the bear. The grizzly charged from a distance of about 10 meters. Bartecchi sprayed the bear continuously for several seconds, then twice more during the attack before losing the spray. She received bite injuries to the left side of her head and the base of her skull, then to her left shoulder, left arm and left hip as she tried to get away from the bear. When she reached some alder trees, the bear broke off the attack. Bartecchi then walked about a half mile to the road, where she was met by Ruthrauff, who drove her to Chitina for emergency treatment. She was then taken by ambulance to Glenallen. Her injuries are not life- threatening. This is the first time a government employee has been injured by a bear in the park, and only the second bear injury incident ever recorded at Wrangell-St. Elias. [Tom Betts, WRST, 5/30]


Friday, September 4, 1998
98-565 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Search and Rescue

The Anchorage Air Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) received an ELT beacon signal coming from the Jacksina Glacier area of the park at 7:30 a.m. on August 17th. Due to severe winds and limited visibility, air search operations could not be begun for 11 hours (one air taxi pilot had reported a 1,000-foot down draft earlier that morning). The ELT signals stopped at 6 p.m. An area search of the coordinates by an HC-130 flying above the cloud layer picked up a renewed signal just before 10 p.m. On the afternoon of August 18th, a contract Bell 206 helicopter with district ranger Marshal Neeck aboard spotted a man in blowing snow near the toe of the glacier, which is above 6,000 feet. The man, J.Q., who was in the area hunting Dall sheep, had activated the ELT after his tent and equipment had blown off the mountain, and had operated the ELT intermittently since that time. The RCC has classified the rescue effort as one in which a life was saved, as J.Q. was not scheduled for pickup by an air taxi operator until August 22nd. [Tim Saskowsky, CI, WRST, 9/1]


Friday, September 18, 1998
98-606 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Special Event

The park held a ground-breaking ceremony for a future visitor center and office building on June 28th. Director Stanton and senator Frank Murkowski were among the dignitaries attending the event. The new visitor center will be built along the historic Valdez-Fairbanks Trail near Copper Center. About 70 people attended. [Jim Hannah, WRST, 7/15]


Tuesday, May 4, 1999
99-157 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Climber Killed by Avalanche

J.H., of Whistler, British Columbia, was pushed over a cliff by a slab avalanche and suffered fatal injuries from a fall of between 1,500 to 2,000 feet. His body was recovered by two climbing companions and flown to the Gulkana Airport. J.H., K.R. and G.A.T., all of British Columbia, had been flown into the University Range on April 25th by Ultima Thule Outfitters. Four days later, the climbers left their camp in the early morning hours to attempt an unnamed peak. Winds were calm and the temperature was five degrees Fahrenheit. They were climbing a slope of between 20 and 30 degrees and were not roped. J.H. was about ten yards in front of K.R. and G.A.T. when a snow slab slid away just beneath him. K.R. and G.A.T. were able to cling to the ridge and stay out of the slow moving release. The slab, which was about 100 feet wide and three feet deep, gathered speed and carried J.H. over the edge and out of sight. K.R. and G.A.T. climbed down the mountain for about two hours until they came upon gloves, a hat, and an area of discolored snow. They probed the area and uncovered J.H., who was under three feet of snow. J.H. sustained very extensive head injuries. K.R. and G.A.T. contacted the Rescue Coordination Center through an ELT signal; rangers and state troopers responded. [Hunter Sharp, CR, WRST, 5/3]


Wednesday, June 7, 2000
00-256 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Climbing Fatality

On June 2nd, the park received a report of a climbing fatality that had occurred two days previously on Mt. Bona. Guide D.P. and two clients reached the summit of the 16,410-foot mountain on May 30th. They were descending on snowshoes on the 31st and were about 20 minutes from base camp when the accident occurred. D.P. had just called for slack while probing a crevasse they had marked and crossed on the ascent when it broke open under him. He fell about 75 feet and was covered with snow and ice that collapsed in on top of him. D.P.'s clients were unable to extricate him, so they anchored the rope, left a note for the climbing party that was behind them, and returned to camp. Guide B.L. found the note and anchors. He crossed the crevasse safely at a point about 15 yards from where D.P. went in. As he was belaying the next climber (a client) across, the climber broke through and fell in but was extricated uninjured. This climber said that he could see D.P.'s rope for about 30 feet before it entered snow and ice but was unable to see D.P.. B.L. contacted a pilot from another outfitter and advised him that D.P.'s body was unrecoverable. On June 3rd, rangers Tom Betts and Hunter Sharp, state troopers and members of Alaska Mountain Rescue flew to the site. They determined that no efforts would be made to extricate D.P.'s body due to the hazards to rescuers and the large amount of ice and snow that would have to be removed. D.P.'s wife, also a mountaineer, supported the decision. [Tom Betts, WRST, 6/6]


Saturday, July 8, 2000
00-367 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Death Investigation

Alaska state troopers responded to a 911 call in the park around 3 a.m. on the morning of Monday, June 3rd. R.M., 52, died while camping with his son and a friend on the Gilahina River along the McCarthy Road. R.M. had been drinking heavily the previous evening and had threatened to kill members of his party and another party camped on private land across the road. He twice pulled a knife, but was talked into returning to his camp for a couple of beers. After awhile, R.M. again became belligerent, threatening to kill the other three members of his group. When he went for a gun, they restrained him with a choke hold, tied his hands, and placed him in the bushes to sleep it off. They told troopers that they found him dead when checking on him later that night. An autopsy has been ordered and the investigation continues. The troopers have primary jurisdiction in the investigation. [Tom Betts, WRST, 7/6]


Thursday, May 3, 2001
01-183 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Rescue Response; ELT Misuse

On April 30th, the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) in Anchorage notified the park of an ELT activation in the Chugach Mountains south of the Chitina River. Ranger/pilots Jim Hannah and Tom Betts flew the park's Cessna 185 to the area. En route, they contacted a local pilot who told them that he'd flown a group of climbers to that location for St. Elias Alpine Guides (SEAG). He said that they had a radio and monitored the frequency that he uses. Hannah and Betts accordingly made contact with the group by radio and were told by SEAG guide D.L. that one of his clients - P.R. of Germany - had been experiencing "anxiety" throughout the trip. He'd had a good day of skiing the day before and seemed in good spirits, but asked to be picked up early when he'd awakened that morning. The guides assured him that they would contact their pilot the next time he flew over and arrange a pick-up. P.R. seemed to accept this, then walked over to his tent and activated an ELT (emergency locator transmitter) without their knowledge. When the guides learned of this three hours later, they deactivated the ELT. The rangers again contacted the pilot who's ferried the group in and passed on the request for an early pick-up. P.R. was taken out shortly thereafter. SEAG operates in the park under an incidental business permit. Rangers and state troopers cooperate on SAR events in the park and respond to three or four ELT hits annually. More and more climbers and backpackers are traveling with ELT's, PLB's (personal locator beacons), EPIRB's (emergency position indicating radio beacons) and cell phones. Although there have been accidental ELT calls due to hard landings by aircraft, this is the first case of blatant misuse that has occurred in the park to date. Climbers in Wrangell-St. Elias do not need to register, and the pilots who fly them in generally handle evacuations. [Tom Betts, WRST, 4/30]


Saturday, July 14, 2001
01-353 - Wrangell - St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Falling Fatality

On June 27th, German hiker H.H. missed his prearranged backcountry pickup flight. State troopers, rangers and an Air National Guard helicopter were committed to the search. Rangers found H.H.'s body two days later. It appears from the position of the body that he fell while scrambling on an unstable rock slope. His body was found in a remote location at the 9,000-foot elevation. The incident commander determined that the rock on the mountain would not hold anchors and that it would not be safe to attempt to use a technical climbing team to retrieve H.H.'s body. Troopers and rangers from both Wrangell - St. Elias and Denali recovered the remains on July 11th by using a Llama helicopter that had been chartered by Denali for mountain rescue. The Llama is equipped with a remote control grappling device on a long line below the helicopter that can be used to grasp an object. The grappling device eliminates the need for a short-haul maneuver with a live rescuer below the helicopter. [Hunter Sharp, CR, WRST, 7/12]


Saturday, July 14, 2001
01-354 - Wrangell - St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Falling Fatality

Rangers, assisted by an ANG Pavehawk helicopter, located the body of 34-year-old solo hiker T.Y. on July 2nd. T.Y. had been missing since June 29th, when he failed to meet his backcountry pickup flight. T.Y. was found at the 2,300-foot elevation on the west slope of Dan Creek canyon, about 15 miles from McCarthy and within the park. It appears that T.Y. was attempting to ascend the west side of the canyon when he lost his footing and fell about 280 feet. His fall was arrested by the alder brush covering the canyon floor and sides. His body was recovered and turned over to state troopers. [Hunter Sharp, CR, WRST, 7/12]


Monday, April 15, 2002
02-105 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Two Climbers Killed, Two More Rescued

On Thursday, April 4th, A.M., J.G., G.V.D., and R.S. began an attempt to summit Mount St. Elias, then ski and snowboard down the Tyndall Glacier. They were dropped off at Hayden Col on April 5th by Paul Claus, owner of Ultima Thule Outfitters, and expedition outfitter. On the 10th, Claus contacted deputy superintendent Hunter Sharp by cell phone. He reported that he'd flown back to the area that morning to check on the climbers' progress and had seen a message in the snow that said 'two dead.' Claus spotted the two surviving climbers stranded around the 14,500-foot level of the col. The NPS notified the Alaska rescue coordination center, and they dispatched an HC-130 Hercules rescue tanker and an HH-60 Pavehawk from the Air National Guard's 210th Mountain Air Rescue group to the scene. They rescued J.G. and G.V.D. and flew them to Providence Hospital in Anchorage. J.G. told rangers that he, A.M. and R.S. had reached the summit of Mount St. Elias on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 9th. G.V.D. was suffering from frostbite on his hands, so had decided to remain at their camp at 14,500 feet. J.G. started his descent first; A.M. and R.S. followed on skis. J.G. saw A.M. fall about 4,000 feet and disappear. He then called out for R.S., but was unable to contact or find him. J.G. bivouacked at 16,000 feet that night and continued to look for R.S. on Wednesday morning. After seeing no sign of R.S., J.G. made the descent to the 14,500-foot camp Wednesday morning to meet up with Van Dorsten and stamp out the message for help. Claus was able to return to the scene of the accident during a break in the weather on April 12th and spotted one body about 3,000 feet below the summit of Mount St. Elias. He also saw gear and skis scattered along the fall line. Claus reported the discovery to the NPS. Efforts to recover the body are being considered, but it's not yet been determined whether this will be possible. The area is heavily crevassed on an exposed and extreme slope around 16,000 feet. [Jane Tranel, WRST, 4/12]


Tuesday, April 16, 2002
02-105 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Follow-up on Climbing Fatalities

On Saturday, April 13th, searchers located the bodies of A.M. and R.S., the two men who died on Mount St. Elias on April 8th while descending from the 18,000-foot summit. Pilot Paul Claus and surviving climber J.G. flew to the site on the 13th and confirmed that the body Claus had seen the previous day was A.M.'s. It appears that he fell about 2,000 feet, ending up around the 16,000 foot level. J.G. and Claus also found R.S.'s body, which was at the 17,200 foot level. R.S. fell almost a thousand feet into a heavily crevassed area of the slope. A.M. and R.S. were descending on skis when they fell; J.G. descended by snowboard. Recovery of the two bodies is not currently possible due to the extreme slope, terrain and altitude. [Jane Tranel, PIO, WRST, 4/15]


Tuesday, July 16, 2002
02-040 - Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P (AK) - Drowning

P.M., 28, of Bloomington, Minnesota, drowned while trying to cross the Chitistone River on Thursday, July 11th. P.M. was hiking the Chitistone Trail with two friends from Colorado. The three men had been dropped off at Skolai Pass, then hiked east to Chitistone Pass and down to the river. They linked arms and attempted to cross the river, but lost their footing when one of them slipped. P.M.'s companions managed to unclip their backpacks and make it across the river, but P.M. was swept away with his pack still on. The hikers spent all day Friday searching for P.M., but failed to find him. They continued looking from the air after their scheduled pickup at 1 p.m. on Saturday. After they were dropped off in McCarthy, the park launched a helicopter search. P.M.'s body was spotted at 5 p.m. and recovered about an hour later. His partly submerged body was in the river about a mile from the point where the accident occurred. He evidently drowned after he became caught in some rocks. [Jane Tranel, PIO, ARO, 7/15]


Monday, April 14, 2003
Wrangell - St Elias National Park & Preserve (AK)
Skier Killed By Avalanche On Verde Peak

On the afternoon of April 10th, P.C. of Ultima Thule Outfitters contacted chief ranger Hunter Sharp by satellite phone and informed him that one of his clients had been killed in an avalanche. The client was later identified as Dr. R.L.P. III, 55, of Anchorage. Sharp contacted Alaska state troopers, who have primary jurisdiction on fatalities in the park, and informed them of the incident. Ranger/pilot Tom Betts flew a trooper to Chitina airport, where he conducted interviews with P.C., guide D.L., and R.L.P.'s skiing partner, Dr. H.H. P.C. had landed the trio on the summit of Verde peak to begin their descent. Both D.L. and H.H. said that the group was staying high on the ridge, out of the danger zone, when they looked back and saw R.L.P. ski down into the gully. R.L.P. stopped and was performing a kick turn when the slope gave way about ten feet upslope. R.L.P. lost his balance and fell head first upslope into the debris. A second release immediately occurred above the first fracture and more snow came down on top of him. The slide continued for approximately 1700 feet. R.L.P. was wearing a transciever and his body was located approximately 25 minutes after the slide occurred. He suffered severe head trauma and was lifeless when pulled out of the debris. Neither D.L. nor H.H. was caught in the slide. P.C. first learned of the fatality when he flew over the skiers to check on them at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon. After interviews were conducted, Betts and the trooper flew to the site to obtain aerial photos. Due to the lateness of the day, recovery efforts were put off until the next morning. At approximately 9 a.m., the next morning, Betts met with P.C. and five of his employees and a private helicopter owned and operated by a friend of P.C. at a frozen lake below the accident site. P.C. and three of his employees were flown to the summit of Verde peak. They reached R.L.P.'s body by the same route that D.L. had taken the day before. Betts and two others skied from the valley below up to the site. The body was extricated and skied down to a point where the helicopter was able hook on with a long line and sling the body down to the airplanes below. Prior to leaving the site one of the rescuers led the group in a very moving short memorial service. Media interest has been high as both of the doctors are well known in the Anchorage community.
[Submitted by Tom Betts, Park Ranger]


Monday, May 17, 2004
Wrangell - St Elias National Park & Preserve (AK)
Search In Progress for Missing Climber

A search is underway for missing climber J.H. on 16,237-foot Mount Sanford. J.H. was dropped off at Windy Ridge on the slopes of Mount Sanford on May 4th by McMahan Guide and Flying Services. When McMahan returned to pick him up on May 9th, J.H. had not returned. Several intensive aerial searches were conducted, but all so far have been fruitless. Alaska State Troopers, the Air National Guard Rescue Coordination Center, the National Park Service, area climbers, and McMahan Guide and Flying Service have been involved in the search. On Friday, rangers and a guide service pilot employed two aircraft to search from the toe of the Sheep Glacier down Boulder Creek and along the Copper River. J.H. could have ended up in these areas if he got off-route, as Windy Ridge can be hard to find in the fog. A helicopter shuttled rangers to the mountain to search the climbing route, especially in the icefall area, found at around 8,000 feet. The helicopter also shuttled four climbers to the top of Ice Fall on the Sheep Glacier. What appeared from the air to be a single set of ski tracks between the toe of the Sheep Glacier and the 8,000-foot elevation west of the glacier off the route was being investigated at the time of the report. According to J.H.'s father, J.H. has aspired for years to receive international mountain guiding credentials, which only about 20 people in the USA have obtained. His family said he loves to ski and much prefers to live outside rather than inside. He has spent several seasons mountain guiding and backcountry ski guiding in Argentina and France. J.H. grew up in Boise, Idaho, where he graduated from high school in 1994. J.H. also served as assistant coach at Bogas Basin Ski Area in Boise, Idaho, for two, and spent another two seasons as assistant coach for the Alyeska Junior Ski Racing Program.
[Submitted by Smitty Parratt, Information Officer]


Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Wrangell - St Elias National Park & Preserve (AK)
Search for Missing Climber Suspended

On Tuesday, May 4th, J.H. hired an air taxi to drop him off at Windy Ridge for a climb of 16,237 foot Mt. Sanford, located in the northern portion of the park. When pilot H.M. returned to pick him up at the appointed time on Sunday, May 9th, J.H. was nowhere to be found. H.M. searched the immediate area on the ground and made aerial searches for several days. On May 12th, H.M. notified the park. An immediate investigation was begun by air and ground. Over the ensuing days, Alaska State Troopers, National Park Service, the Rescue Coordination Center of the Air National Guard, volunteer mountain rescue teams, and volunteer climbers joined in the search effort. A state trooper served as co-incident commander with park ranger/SAR coordinator Pete Dalton. Ranger/pilot Rich Richotte served as air and ground operations coordinator. While NPS pilots flew the climbing route and possible exit routes, J.H.'s car was located and inventoried. The Rescue Coordination Center was notified and a Pavehawk helicopter and C-130 aircraft flew in on Wednesday evening. The H. family had planned a reunion in Salt Lake City on May 12th. When J.H. did not arrive, J.H.'s father, D.H., and brother, also Do.H., flew to Anchorage, arriving at the search incident command post in Gulkana that evening. On Thursday, May 13th, aircraft flew numerous search patters along the Mt. Sanford climbing route and possible off-routes and escape routes. Meanwhile, the Pavehawk helicopter, equipped with forward-looking infrared, flew the climbing route to the summit. The crew found some evidence of previous climbing parties, none of them linked to J.H. More helicopters were ordered. On Friday, May 14th, an NPS aircraft made numerous passes over possible escape routes from the mountain toward the Copper River and along Boulder Creek. J.H.'s father was also flown over the climbing route. A contract helicopter flew low-level searches along the snow and ice portions of the route and off-route possibilities, and Denali NP's contract high-elevation rescue helicopter shuttled a team of four climbers from that park to a point above the icefall on Sheep Glacier. Team members then descended through the icefall. They found that they could not safely approach many of the crevasses for visual inspection, though, so were extracted. On Saturday, May 15th, search dog teams from the Mountain Rescue Unit in Anchorage were flown to Windy Ridge airstrip, where J.H. had been dropped off to begin his climb. The teams made a visual search of the area while the dogs sniffed for human scent. Tracks leading downhill from Windy Ridge were found, but soon faded. The four-person climbing team from Denali, supplemented by two accomplished local climbers, found a base camp that J.H. had made during his summit attempt, probably on May 4th. J.H. had used a snow shelter built by a climbing party several weeks previous to his effort. He'd left most of his camping gear in the snow shelter and headed up the mountain in a presumed fast, light, one-day summit attempt. He carried an ice axe, crampons, 40 meters of rope, shovel, and some other gear. J.H. did not return, and in the ensuing days the shelter collapsed, making it undetectable from the air. Sunday, May 16th, was the last day of intensive searching for J.H., as it had been 12 days since he'd last been seen. Winds rose and a cloud cap moved in over Mt. Sanford as the climbing parties were extracted by helicopter from the Sheep Glacier. Two helicopters and an aircraft flew the climbing route above J.H.'s base camp, but without finding any trace of him. Other resources were released, and J.H.'s father and brother flew home. Rangers plan to fly higher portions of the climbing route during future patrols, checking the area as snow conditions change.
[Submitted by Smitty Parratt, Information Officer]


Monday, September 13, 2004
Wrangell - St Elias National Park & Preserve (AK)
Four Overdue Kayakers Rescued from Park

On August 18th, Alaska State Troopers (AST) notified the park that four kayakers were overdue from a trip on the Nizina and Chitina Rivers. The search was managed under a dual command with AST. Chitina area ranger/pilot Rich Richotte was the NPS IC. Richotte and maintenance chief/pilot Will Tipton were on a flight in the area in the park's C-185 and conducted the initial investigation. They found the overdue party's vehicle at the Chitina airport. Ranger/pilot Tom Betts was on a separate flight in the area in the park's Aviat Husky. Betts then flew the search with the Husky while Richotte and Tipton returned to manage the incident. Betts spotted N.M. and G.C. waving yellow dry bags on the bank of the Nizina River. Finding only two people at the scene when there should have been four, Betts landed to determine what had happened to the others. He learned that Oleg Abramov and Stanislav Levitsky had begun hiking to McCarthy that morning. The landing area was improved to make it long enough to get out with passengers on board. Betts flew N.M. to McCarthy; while returning to get G.C., Betts made several passes along the high banks of the river and eventually spotted Abramov and Levitsky. An AST helicopter landed in a nearby meadow and picked them up. Kennecott district ranger Marshall Neeck conducted medical assessments on all four and found them to be in good health. Interviews with the men revealed what had happened. The four had been flown to the head of the Nizina River on August 10th. They hiked in the area for two days, then began floating the rivers in inflatable, two-person kayaks. One of the boats swamped within the first couple of miles and they lost their dry bags, which contained a SAT phone, GPS, and most of their food. They'd been afoot for five days, hiked approximately 12 to 15 miles, and were "eating berries" at the time of their rescue. All four had been well advised of river conditions and area hazards by the air-taxi operator who flew them in.
[Submitted by Tom Betts, Acting Chief Ranger]


Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Wrangell - St Elias National Park & Preserve (AK)
Rescue from Root Glacier

Shortly after noon on August 28th, H.P. of Barrington, Illinois, slipped while hiking on the Root Glacier and sustained injuries to her hip and wrist. Kennecott District DR Marshall Neeck and district interpreter Megan Brokaw responded. H.P. was immobilized with a full-body vacuum splint on a litter and treated for minor hypothermia. Neeck organized a volunteer group of local guides and residents of McCarthy to help carry her out. Due to the location of the accident, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center was advised. They sent a Pavehawk helicopter and a C-130 support aircraft from the 210th Air Rescue Squadron. The best landing zone for the helicopter was on the glacier, so H.P. was carried back onto the ice for the evacuation. She was flown to Alaska Regional Hospital for treatment at 6 p.m. Due to the remote location, this was a relatively quick evacuation. The cooperative effort among local guides, residents and NPS staff was outstanding and resulted in a smoothly run incident. Neeck was IC. Alaska State Troopers retain jurisdiction over SAR's in the park, but routinely defer to park staff to handle remote emergencies.
[Submitted by Tom Betts, Acting Chief Ranger]


Monday, October 04, 2004
Wrangell - St Elias National Park & Preserve (AK)
Hypothermic Hiker and Partner Rescued

On Thursday September 16th, Kennecott District DR Marshall Neeck received a report of overdue hikers from G.G., a local air taxi operator. On the previous Monday, G.G. had flown R.B., 29, and D.E., 27, to a remote airstrip high on the Chitistone River. They planned to hike across the plateau to the Nizina River drainage, where he would pick them up at another remote strip on Wednesday.

The area was hit by a strong storm that dumped up to two feet of snow on the plateau on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, G.G. flew to the pickup point, but found no sign of R.B. and D.E. Low clouds and continuing storms impeded his efforts to find them by air. He tried again on Thursday, but had no luck so returned to McCarthy and reported the pair overdue.

Neeck flew out to the area with another air taxi operator and soon located the couple, who were on route and heading toward their destination. Since they seemed to be moving along okay and gave no indications of any problems, rangers decided to monitor their progress, then pick them up at the airport.

Chitina Area ranger/pilot Rich Richotte flew over the couple later in the afternoon. He noted that they hadn't made much progress and were now waving frantically at the aircraft. Due to the deteriorating weather, their location, and his knowledge of the route, Richotte recommended immediate evacuation by helicopter. Within 90 minutes, an Astar helicopter from Valdez with Neeck on board arrived on scene.

Neeck found that R.B. was hypothermic due to a fall she had taken into a creek. All of her clothes were wet and her sleeping bag was completely soaked. Neeck treated her for hypothermia, then evacuated the couple to McCarthy. Neither was prepared for the winter weather. They were out of food and fuel and were unable to start a fire due to the heavy rain and snow. Temperatures were in the 20s and the weather was deteriorating. If R.B. had stayed out another night, she would likely have become severely hypothermic.

Tom Betts was incident commander for the search, which was managed together with Alaska state troopers.[Submitted by Tom Betts, Acting Chief Ranger/Pilot]


Friday, October 7, 2005
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Arrest of Inholder on Multiple Felony Charges

On September 22nd, a grand jury in Palmer, Alaska, indicted a 64-year-old McCarthy resident on 30 felony counts, including ten counts of sexual assault in the first degree, one count of kidnapping, eight counts of incest, eight counts of coercion, and one count each of assault in the first, second and third degree. The man is also a landowner within the park and the plaintiff in a highly-publicized, access-related case that is still pending before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The charges filed against him are the result of an investigation conducted by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation into allegations of illegal acts which occurred over the past eight years. The investigation was begun following information received by troopers over Labor Day weekend. The man fled the area, leading to a major manhunt for him throughout the state. On October 5th, an Alaska Railroad special agent caught him near Anchorage and arrested him without incident. For more information, go to HYPERLINK http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/7053155p-6957171c.html [John Quinley, Public Affairs Officer, Alaska Regional Office)


Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Climber Dies in Crevasse Fall on Mount Bona

A 56-year-old California man died on the afternoon of Monday, May 17th, after a fall into a crevasse near Mount Bona, about 40 miles east of McCarthy. The man was on a guided mountaineering trip with two guides and a second client. The party was traversing the Klutlan Glacier at about the 9,700 foot elevation on snowshoes and was roped together at the time of the accident. The victim was leading, followed by a guide. According to accounts provided by the latter, the man fell through a snow bridge at about 3 p.m. and caught himself at his armpits. While the guide was taking out the slack in the line, he broke through and fell about 20 feet farther down the crevasse. The crevasse had not been seen by the climbers, and ran toward the guide, causing a pendulum effect when the victim broke through. The guide anchored the man, then began trying to contact him, but received no response. The guides called the Alaska National Guard Rescue Coordination Center by satellite phone shortly after the fall. The National Park Service was then notified by RCC. The air taxi pilot who had brought the group in was called by NPS. At about 4:15 p.m. Monday afternoon, he returned to the glacier, landed and assisted the group with the recovery. The pilot was accompanied by a doctor who was staying at Ultima Thule Lodge. After the victim was brought out of the crevasse, CPR was attempted until the doctor pronounced him dead. Based on the information provided by the guide, the state coroner determined the cause of death as "positional asphyxia" [John Quinley, Public Affairs Specialist, ARO]


Monday, October 16, 2006
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Flood Damages Parts Of Kennecott NHL

Heavy rains have caused National Creek to flood, seriously damaging portions of Kennecott Mill Town. Flooding damaged the supports to the bridge into the town, leading to its closure. Repair work will most likely not take place until next spring. The low-water crossing next to the trestle bridge was also destroyed by flood waters. The assay building, hospital and bunk houses within the national historic landmark were also damaged. The assay building has lost its north and rear walls, and the creek channel now runs against on of the remaining walls. There's gravel and debris within the hospital and bunk houses, but they remain standing. The Lakina River also flooded the McCarthy Road near mile 44. A park inholder home has been washed into the middle of the river but remains standing. None of the family members were injured. Park staff are working with family members and other agencies to salvage personal belongings that remain in the house. Alaska DOT has closed McCarthy Road to traffic until repairs can be completed. [Smitty Parratt, Public Information Officer]


Thursday, December 28, 2006
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Former Inholder Pleads No Contest To Incest Charge

On Tuesday, December 26th, a self-styled religious patriarch and former park inholder known as "Papa Pilgrim" pleaded no contest to felony charges including incest. R.H., 65, was accused of molesting one of his 15 children over a seven-year span, including a period when his family lived in seclusion within the park. The Pilgrims, as they once called themselves, gained notoriety for their feud with the National Park Service over access to the family's remote homestead within the 13.2 million-acre park. In Tuesday's hearing, R.H. pleaded no contest to consolidated counts of first-degree sexual assault, incest and coercion. According to an assistant district attorney, R.H. told the state superior court judge that he never sexually assaulted anyone but decided to plead "for the good of his family." R.H. had been scheduled for a January 16th trial on 30 felony counts involving one of his daughters. The incest and two other counts were consolidated and charges of kidnapping and assault were dropped in a deal R.H. made in exchange for a state-approved sentence of 14 years. [Rachel D'Oro, Associated Press]


Monday, June 18, 2007
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Missing Hiker Found And Rescued

On the evening of Thursday, June 13th, staff were notified that R.P., 25, of McCarthy, Alaska, was overdue from a day hike in the Kennecott area of the park. R.P. had left a note at a friend's residence saying that she was hiking up to the Erie Mine site, that she was starting her trip at 10 a.m., and that she would return later that evening. Friends advised that R.P. had just moved to the area this spring and that she was not that familiar with either the area or the route to the Erie Mine. A search and rescue team began looking for R.P. early on the morning of June 14th. Five ground teams, consisting of a total of 15 park employees and mountaineering guides, were organized and began looking for her. Two aircraft were also brought in. An NPS trail crew member reported that he'd seen a woman matching R.P.'s description hiking on the Root Glacier trail near the Jumbo Creek Bridge the previous afternoon. Based on this information, search efforts were redirected to the trails leading to and across the Root Glacier and to the Erie Mine site. Mountaineering guide P.H. spotted R.P. waving her jacket at the NPS search aircraft as it passed below her location. R.P. was approximately 700 feet above the Erie Mine Bunkhouse at the 5,000 foot elevation. Team members attempted to approach her location but found the terrain to be too hazardous to climb due to the condition of the rock and the steepness of the approach. They determined that R.P. would have to be short-hauled from her location. Food, water and a message were dropped to her from the park aircraft, the latter telling her to stay put and that a helicopter was en route to her location. Denali's high altitude Lama helicopter was requested and dispatched to the scene. Crew chief Dave Kreutzer performed the short haul using a 100 foot line. R.P. was lifted from the mountain and flown to the toe of the Root Glacier, where she got into the Lama and was flown to the McCarthy Airport. R.P. reported that she'd attempted to find better footing while traversing the mine site. While in the process of doing so, she had climbed up onto a steeper section of the rock where she did not believe it was safe to either continue up the rock face or climb down the ascent route she had taken. She'd become stranded the evening before and decided to wait for help. [Pete Dalton, Incident Commander]


Friday, September 21, 2007
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Search Underway For Missing Hiker

Hiker P.S., 68, of Wisconsin, was dropped off at Skolai Pass on September 12th by Wrangell Mountain Air, based in McCarthy. P.S. failed to return to the air strip when weather permitted a pickup on September 17th, a day later than planned. A ground and aerial search for P.S. began at that time, involving both aircraft and a helicopter. Although P.S.'s tent, food, and other equipment were found nearby, there has been no sign of the missing hiker. An incident command team was mobilizing yesterday afternoon to manage an expanded search. [Smitty Parratt]


Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Update: Search For Missing Hiker Suspended

The week-long search for 68-year-old P.S. of Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin, has been suspended as winter descends on the park's high country. The difficult decision to remove ground search teams from the field was made by the superintendent, incident commander and state troopers on Sunday afternoon. It has been three days since any new clues as to P.S.'s location have been discovered. A camp chair found a short distance from his camp soon after the search began was positively identified as belonging to P.S., but footprints found on September 20th could not be confirmed as being his. "We never stop looking for a missing person," said superintendent Meg Jensen. "The search for P.S. covered all high probability areas repeatedly until the likelihood of finding him alive was very small. Blowing and drifting snow and continued snowfall at the search site caused increasing hazard for the search teams . For these reasons, on the afternoon of September 23rd a decision was made, with input from the family, to suspend the search mission." P.S. is believed to have walked away from his campsite on September 13th. Since he was reported missing on September 17th, searchers have checked approximately 6,700 acres of rugged, glaciated terrain in the Skolai Pass area. At times, low visibility due to fog and snowfall hampered search efforts. An Alaska State Troopers helicopter assisted in the search for four days, but was released on Sunday to address critical needs elsewhere in the state. A spotter for helicopter operations was provided by the Alaska Mountain Rescue Association. The great size and ruggedness of Wrangell-St. Elias attract backpackers, hikers and campers seeking wilderness adventure. The park urges visitors who enter the wilderness to be prepared for any eventuality. Wilderness travelers should have a plan and let someone know where they are going and when they expect to return. Always travel with appropriate survival equipment and supplies. Hiking with a partner greatly increases the margin of safety. [Shauna Austin, Smitty Parratt]


Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Three Sentenced For Poaching Moose In Park

Three men pled guilty and were sentenced for possession of unlawfully taken moose in federal district court in Anchorage on December 15th. The case began in October 2007 when the NPS received an anonymous tip that three men had sport-hunted in the park and had killed two bull moose. Investigators learned that the three hunters met in Yakutat to go moose hunting and hired a local air taxi pilot to fly them to one of two locations. The first was Icy Bay, which is outside and west of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve; the second location was about half way to Icy Bay, which is within the national park. The men obtained their hunting permits, but were unable to get maps of their hunting area. They did not contact the NPS prior to the hunt regarding hunt locations. As they flew towards Icy Bay, the winds "got squirrely" and they observed several moose on the ground and decided to hunt there. They did not know the moose were inside the national park, which is closed to sport hunting. Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve, where it would have been legal for them to hunt moose during that time, was one and two miles from each of the kill sites on the other side of a prominent stream. The three hunters, one from Washington state and two from the Anchorage area, were each sentenced to pay a $500 to $1,000 fine and $1,000 in restitution to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park for wildlife protection and ordered to forfeit the meat and antlers. Those involved in solving the crime were special agents from Alaska and Olympic National Park along with park rangers from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Glacier Bay National Park. [John Quinley, Public Affairs Officer]


Monday, March 15, 2010
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Two Sentenced Following Illegal Hunting Convictions

An investigation into the illegal hunting of three Dall sheep in the park last summer came to a conclusion this past winter with the sentencing of two men. The investigation by Alaska Wildlife troopers and NPS rangers began last August 14th after three Dall sheep were taken illegally near Cabin Creek. Investigation at the kill site revealed that two men - identified as K.T., 30, a hunter from Wasilla, and J.N., 36, a guide formerly residing in Anchorage - had taken three sub-legal Dall sheep and had only partially salvaged two of the rams, with the rest of their remains buried and left to waste on the mountain and the third ram concealed by rocks and moss. On August 16th, troopers in Glenallen, Palmer, Wasilla and Anchorage, joined by NPS special investigators, served search warrants on the two men. The meat, cape and horns of a Dall sheep were recovered at K.T.'s residence; additional evidence was seized at J.N.'s home. Investigators also found and seized the meat, cape and horn of a sub-legal sheep at a local taxidermist. K.T. pled guilty to the charge of attempted tampering with physical evidence; he was sentenced to 30 days in jail (25 suspended), ordered to pay $5,000 ($3,000 suspended) and $1,100 in restitution, required to forfeit the sheep meat, and placed on probation for three years. J.N. pled guilty to the charges of aiding or committing wanton waste; he was sentenced to 30 days in jail (23 suspended), ordered to pay $20,000 ($10,000 suspended) and $2,200 in restitution, required to forfeit the sheep meat, cape and horns and all hunting equipment used in the hunt (including guns), and was placed on probation through January 26, 2015. His right to obtain a hunting license in Alaska has also been revoked for five years. [Michael J Thompson, Nabesna District Ranger]


Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Rangers Respond To Multiple Same-Week Incidents

The week of June 12th was a busy one for park staff, with two searches, a downed aircraft and a close encounter with a grizzly bear:

On Monday, June 13th, the park received a call from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center reporting a request for help received via a HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPOT_Satellite_GPS_Messenger" SPOT device. Rangers responded via aircraft and found the group on Ophir Creek on the north side of the park. Using a radio drop bag, communications were established and rangers learned that a group backpacking between Horsfeld and Baultoff had become exhausted while hiking in deep snow. Arrangements were made for them to be picked up via air taxi operator. No injuries or illnesses were reported.

On Wednesday, June 15th, rangers received a report of a downed aircraft on the Tana River, a remote tributary of the Chitina River that drains north from the Chugach Mountains. Rangers flew to the location and discovered a Piper Super Cub on its back on an island in the middle of the river. Further investigation revealed that there'd been no injuries and that the pilot had been picked up by another aircraft in the area and flown out. The pilot of the downed plane had attempted an off-airport landing on the short gravel bar but overturned the airplane in high winds. Due to the potential loss of the aircraft to high water, a special use permit was expedited for removal of the airplane by helicopter.

On Thursday, June 16th, rangers were notified of a bear spray deployment by two other rangers on backcountry patrol in the Chitistone region of the park. Evan Olson and Nate Porter were forced to use bear spray to deter a charging mother grizzly bear after two spring cubs wandered too close to the retreating rangers. The charge was repulsed within just a few feet of the rangers.

On Friday, June 17th, Alaska State Troopers reported that a group of Swiss mountaineers had requested rescue from the 13,000 foot elevation of Mount Sanford. Rangers flew to the scene and located three climbers out of a group of four, lost and bogged down in four feet of fresh snow. The whereabouts of the fourth member of the team was unknown. Assistance from Denali mountaineering rangers was requested and they arrived on scene in a Eurocopter A-Star B3 helicopter. All four climbers were located and short-hauled to a location on the mountain where they could be safely evacuated. The unlawfully-guided group became separated and lost in a snowstorm after the guide fell into a crevasse and lost his skis. The three spent a night out in a snow cave and a fourth returned to camp prior to their request for assistance. All four climbers and their gear were reunited at Gulkana Airport within 12 hours of their initial call for help. No illness or injuries were reported. [Michael J. Thompson, Nabesna District Ranger]


Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Snowmobiler Buried In Human-Triggered Avalanche

On the afternoon of Sunday, March 11th, a recreational snowmobiler was buried in an avalanche above Kennecott within the park. The avalanche was triggered by another snowmobiler who drove his machine up a gully to an open basin at 5,500 feet, causing a three- to four-foot thick slab of snow to break loose.

The snowmobiler who was buried was about 300 vertical feet below the lead rider when the avalanche was triggered. He turned and tried to outrun the avalanche, but was quickly knocked off his machine. He traveled over half a mile and 1,500 vertical feet inside the snow before the avalanche stopped. He was wearing an avalanche beacon, helmet and other protective gear, though, and had taken avalanche safety training and knew to try and "swim" towards the surface if caught by an avalanche. He was also able to keep part of a hand above the snow as the avalanche stopped. Others at the scene found him with the aid of beacons and then spotted his glove. The rescuers were able to dig him out in approximately four minutes. The victim was unconscious and not breathing; CPR was immediately begun and he began breathing on his own after the tenth rescue breath. He exhibited respiratory distress, a decreased level of consciousness and mild hypothermia, but, amazingly, no physical trauma. His snowmobile was totally destroyed.

The park was notified of the incident shortly after it occurred. The snowmobiler was transported to an NPS facility at the McCarthy airport, where rangers Luke Hodgson and Stephens Harper performed a patient assessment, administered oxygen and treated for hypothermia. A National Guard helicopter was on standby to provide air evacuation if needed, but was called off once the man's condition was determined to be stable and not life threatening. He was rewarmed and released from NPS care that evening. Hodgson and Harper met with the friends and family involved in the incident the following day and learned what had occurred. Thirty plus people who were either directly or indirectly involved spent over two hours reviewing avalanche safety material and made a concerted effort to learn from the mistakes that were made that lead to the incident.

Major factors leading to the accident included travel on an avalanche prone slope without testing snow-pack conditions, travelling in an avalanche chute, and riding directly above another rider in avalanche terrain. Many other factors contributed as well. It should be noted that the group did a good job of search and rescue utilizing their tools and education. The patient was literally seconds away from being a fatality.

[Stephens Harper, Kennecott District Ranger]


Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Rafter Dies In Tana River

The Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richards contacted NPS dispatch just after 7 a.m. last Sunday morning with a report of a missing rafter along the Tana River, a large glacial tributary of the Chitina River within the park.

According to the reporting party, R.K., a resident of Mat-Su Borough in Alaska, had been thrown out of his HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Packraft" pack raft and was last seen by his rafting partner around 1 pm, Saturday afternoon.

Aerial and ground search efforts were carried out by park personnel in cooperation with the Alaska Air National Guard, pilots from Ultima Thule Lodge, and locally-hired ground searchers. The overall effort included three airplanes, two helicopters, eight ground searchers, and a National Park Service incident command team.

R.K.'s body was located around 4 p.m. by the crew of the Alaska Air National Guard helicopter. It was two-and-a-half miles downstream from the location where he had last been seen. The body was taken to a hospital in Anchorage.

The Tana River is extremely cold, swift and known for large water and difficult rapids.

[Peter Christian]


Monday, June 8, 2015
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Pilot Killed In Airstrip Accident

Ranger were notified of a fatality at the Peavine Bar airstrip, about 15 miles east of McCarthy, late on the morning of June 4th.

C.B., 62, of Wasilla, Alaska, was struck and killed by his plane's rotating propeller. He was instructing a small group of pilots at the time, and one of them notified authorities by satellite phone.

Rangers recovered the body and began an investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified.

[Peter Christian, District Ranger]


Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Two Hikers Drown In Attempted River Crossing

On July 2nd, rangers recovered the bodies of two hikers along the Sanford River. They were last seen on June 22nd, when they were dropped off by an air taxi operator at the Sanford Glacier airstrip less than two miles from where their bodies were found.

The backpackers were 62-year old R.R. and 62-year old M.H., both from Columbia, Missouri. Both were experienced backpackers and R.R. had been to Alaska several times in the past and had previous experience crossing Alaskan rivers.

After the hikers failed to make their airstrip pick-up at the Dadina River on June 27th and missed two pre-planned satellite phone calls with the air taxi service, the service notified the park. Rangers launched an intensive aerial and ground search for the couple that day; by June 28th, there were 27 people and five aircraft involved in the search for the missing couple.

Search crews subsequently found footprints along the Sanford River where it emerges from the Sanford Glacier. They showed that two people were preparing for a river crossing at that location. Over the ensuing weekend, search crews found two backpacks and other backpacking gear strewn along a seven mile stretch of the river below the glacier, then discovered the footprints.

Water levels in the Sanford River receded on Friday and Saturday, leaving items stranded in dry channels along the river. Based on the evidence that was found by searchers, it appears that the couple attempted to cross the river near the toe of the glacier and were swept away by its powerful waters.

Source: Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Austrian Visitor Dies In Packrafting Accident

A 22-year-old Austrian man died last week in a packrafting accident in the park. A.D., who was from Salzburg, Austria, died on August 2nd after his raft capsized. His body was recovered the next day.

A.D. and a friend, who were both novice packrafters, were dropped off at a lake near the base of the Nizina Glacier for a daylong packrafting trip that day. Three miles downriver, the two men became separated by more than 100 yards,. The friend then spotted a capsized raft, but no sign of A.D. The friend landed on an island and called for emergency assistance via satellite phone.

A.D.'s body was spotted by aerial searchers four miles further downstream on the south side of Nizina River near Mile High Cliffs. The surviving man was picked up, and searchers called for additional help with the recovery. Rangers recovered A.D.'s body the next day.

Source: Anchorage Daily News.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Three Plead Guilty To Guiding Illegal Big-Game Hunts In Park

A federal illegal hunting case involving three men working in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, reports the Anchorage Daily News, has also cost renowned Alaska pilot U.R. the right to guide hunts at the lodge he has operated for decades near the Canadian border.

U.R., who just turned 100, built Ptarmigan Lake Lodge in the 1970s on an inholding near Beaver Creek within the rugged country of Wrangell-St. Elias.

U.R. was issued a federal violation notice in 2017 for illegal bait sites that were part of an apparent scheme to control predators by drawing bears to bait as well as putting poison in dead rabbits to kill wolves. The case cost him both his NPS concession to guide hunts from his lodge and his own hunting guide license -- the first one handed out after Alaska statehood.

The three men, all lodge employees, were sentenced on January 18th after pleading guilty to misdemeanor and felony charges related to illegal big-game hunts. The charges include allowing out-of-state hunters to kill Dall sheep without a guide, as required by state game laws, and falsifying hunt records to cover up their crimes. Two of them also killed bears and sheep illegally.

They are C.R., 48, of Montana; J.H., 45, of Washington, who worked as a horse wrangler and performed lodge maintenance; and D.L., a 74-year-old from Haines who was initially the only licensed assistant guide of the three. C.R. and J.H. were also charged with poisoning predators at multiple unregistered bait stations in 2014 and 2015.

Source: Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Hunter Killed By Grizzly Bear

A.P., 22, of Ohio was killed by a grizzly bear in the park late on Sunday, September 20th, while on a moose hunting trip. This is the first recorded fatal bear attack in the park since it was established in 1980.

The incident occurred in a remote area approximately 50 air miles from the nearest community of Northway, Alaska, and 130 miles from park headquarters. The attack occurred near the Cottonwood Creek drainage, an area of mixed tundra and forest lands with dense vegetation, while the hunting party was salvaging meat from a moose harvested the day before. The park's investigation determined this was a surprise attack and that a defensive firearm or other deterrent, like bear spray, was not readily available to the victim.

The NPS was notified about the incident at approximately 7:30 p.m. on September 20th. Through coordination with a local air taxi service used by the hunters, the NPS ensured the site was secure and that the victim's hunting partner was safely evacuated from the area. The following day, the NPS coordinated with Alaska Wildlife Troopers to recover the victim's body, which was transported to the Alaska State Medical Examiner's office in Anchorage, Alaska.

Rangers found no evidence that the bear remains in the area, and no other park visitors are known to be in the immediate vicinity of the incident location. The site is extremely remote, but rangers will continue to monitor the area for bear activity.

Source: National Park Service.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P
Two Killed In Plane Crash

A plane that crashed last Thursday morning in Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve, killing two, may have broken up in midair, federal investigators say.

The Cessna 185 was operated by C.V.A.S. and carried a pilot and one passenger, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. A Rescue Coordination Center crew flew to the site in a helicopter Thursday and confirmed that neither survived. On Saturday, state troopers and National Park Service rangers were able to recover the bodies of both the pilot and passenger from the plane. They were taken to the state's medical examiner for identification.

The plane, which also carried U.S. mail, was flying from Gulkana to McCarthy. The debris came to rest in forested, mountainous terrain that's difficult to access.

The crash occurred about 13 miles northeast of Chitina. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was notified of the crash at about 11:41 a.m. Thursday by an emergency locator transmitter, troopers said. The rescue crew described the wreckage as being in two distinct places. The main fuselage landed in one location and the tail and other debris were found about 200 yards behind it, which would indicate the airplane broke up in flight.

Midair breakups are fairly unusual, and often involve flying in bad weather. Investigators are looking into the weather at the time, which was cold but didn't immediately appear to be a factor. It was minus 20 in Gulkana on Friday morning.

Source: Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Hunter found dead by creek

On August 12, a 40-year-old hunter stopped regular communication by his InReach device. His last message indicated he was about to cross Jacksina Creek. His point-of-contact notified the NPS on August 16, and a multi-day search was begun by the NPS, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, helicopters, and fixed wing aircraft. On August 21, a packrafting search team found his body alongside Jacksina Creek. It appeared he attempted to cross the creek and was swept away by the current. Source: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve


Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
Hunter attacked by grizzly

On September 8, a solo hunter was attacked by a grizzly bear near the Chisana River. He activated a distress signal, which triggered a rescue by the NPS and Air National Guard. He was taken to a nearby hospital, then transferred eventually to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where he was in stable condition. The grizzly was with two cubs, and because the attack was defensive in nature, the park has no plans to locate the mother bear. Source: USA Today

July 13, 2022
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Wildfire

On July 4, the Alaska Division of Forestry and Fire Protection received a call of a possible fire west of Copper Lake between Mount Sanford and Capital Mountain. A helicopter responded and observed the fire burning in black spruce in a "Limited Protection area," which dictates that managers monitor the fire and otherwise let it burn. It was determined to be lightning-caused. As of July 6, it was three acres in size. Source: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve


July 27, 2022
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Fall on glacier

On July 11, a 65-year-old sustained lower leg injuries after a ground-level fall on the Root Glacier. NPS staff and volunteers from the search and rescue team responded to the scene to extricate the patient via a litter. The patient was transferred to an ambulance in Chitina for transport to advanced medical care. Source: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve


August 10, 2022
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Plane crash

On August 7, the Personal Locator Beacon for a Cessna 172 aircraft was activated, alerting the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center of a plane crash. The pilot and a passenger (who is a minor) were attempting to take off from a mesa above Ptarmigan Lake when they experienced turbulent winds, causing the left wing of the plane to stall and contact the ground, causing the plane to roll and land 200 yards downslope from the top of the mesa. Alaska State Troopers and the NPS dispatched aircraft to the scene and verified that both the pilot and passenger were uninjured, but needed helicopter rescue. The Alaska Air National Guard dispatched a HH-60G Black Hawk helicopter to the site and brought them to the Palmer Airport. Source: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

September 7, 2022
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Plane crash

On September 3, a Cessna 180 landed poorly at the Jakes Bar airstrip due to a gusting tail wind, striking a large rock and flipping over. The pilot and passenger sustained only bruises, and were able to stay the night in a public use cabin near the airstrip with the rations they had with them. A friend picked them up the following day and transported them back to Anchorage. Wrangell Mountain Air was able to fly to the site to provide information on the location of the aircraft for future salvaging. It was the fourth aircraft accident in the park this year. Source: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

September 18, 2022
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Trail closed for bear activity

On September 12, the park closed the 12- and 13-mile sections of the Nugget Creek Trail off of the McCarthy Road due to a bear-cached moose carcass on the trail. The trail will reopen when it is confirmed that the carcass has been consumed and the bear is no longer utilizing the area. Source: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve


September 6, 2023
Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve
Plane crash

On August 27, a plane travelling from Glennallen to Ketchikan was reported overdue by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center. The plane was believed to be carrying a 59-year-old and a 58-year-old. The last known communication with the aircraft was 18 mile inland of Cape Yakataga. The following day, August 28, an Alaska Air National Guard plan attempted to search the area, but deteriorating weather hampered the effort. That evening, a U.S. Coast Guard plane located airplane wreckage north of the summit of Mt. Leeper on a heavily glaciated area with deep crevasses. Weather conditions over the following four days, August 29 to September 1, impeded the ability to access the crash site. Due to the elapsed time and continued poor weather, the individuals are believed to be deceased and recovery plans have been delayed until conditions improve. Source: Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve


September 20, 2023
Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve
Follow-up on Previously Reported Incident

The NPS, in collaboration with Alaska State Troopers and the National Transportation Safety Board, have called off recovery efforts for the airplane that crashed on August 27 on Mt. Leeper (see 9/6/23 Coalition Report). A reconnaissance mission on September 5 showed that the plane came to rest in a "highly crevassed area" on the Yahtse Glacier that continually accumulates snow, making the wreckage "permanently inaccessible." A preliminary report about the incident was released by the NTSB on September 13. Source: Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve