Four emergency responders were rescued along with a boater in distress on Sunday afternoon after a search and rescue team became stranded during a rescue mission.
At about 4:26 p.m. Sunday, Alaska State Troopers received a report of a boater in distress. Eric Ohlson, 47, of Anchorage, became stranded on Skilak Lake after losing power on his 22-foot-long vessel due to an engine malfunction, according to troopers.
Soldotna-based Central Emergency Services sent out a rescue vessel to retrieve Ohlson.
When CES arrived at Skilak Lake, responders found Ohlson’s friend waiting on shore, safety officer Brad Nelson said. The friend identified a light on the lake as Ohlson's boat, Nelson said, that was close to shore. Responders loaded into a boat and headed in the direction of the light.
“The light that the guy was pointing at was not in fact that boat,” Nelson said.
Conditions on the lake were choppy, Nelson said. Strong winds pushed the boat, a brand new inflatable-hull vessel, onto some rocks, stranding the crew members on the lake.
Working under pitch-black conditions, CES decided not to send a second boat out to retrieve their stranded crewmembers, and instead waited for the Rescue Coordination Center, which already had a helicopter on the way, Nelson said.
The Rescue Coordination Center had sent out two teams to rescue the stranded boater and emergency responders, according to Sgt. Edward Eagerton. Flying out from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the 210th Rescue Squadron dispatched a HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter, and the 211th Rescue Squadron sent an HC-130 King aircraft to rescue the five people.
All five people were back on shore around midnight, Nelson said.
Even boating in familiar, well-traveled waters can get you in trouble when the weather changes. These folks were lucky.