Iceberg surfer triggers multi-agency emergency response

A man surfing icebergs in the Kenai River spurred a multi-agency emergency response on Thursday after onlookers mistook him for someone in distress.

Emergency personnel received reports of a man stranded on a Soldotna stretch of the river at 1:24 p.m., Soldotna Police Sgt. Duane Kant said.

The 28-year-old was spotted near the Aspen Hotel and Odie’s Deli on an ice floe. Police did not release the man’s name, but Kant said he was wearing a wetsuit and is a known ice-surfer.

“He’s a gentlemen that we’ve had contact with in prior years,” Kant said. “He likes to surf the icebergs. That’s what he was doing.”

Kant said the man was able to jump off his perch in the river and wade through shallows onto the shore without assistance from emergency personnel.

Emergency crews left the scene about 20 minutes after the call was received, Kant said.

The false alarm triggered multiple emergency agencies to head to the scene, including six members of the Central Emergency Services crew and the agency’s technical rescue team, CES Capt. Joshua Thompson said. An Alaska State Trooper unit, Soldotna police and Fish and Wildlife personnel also responded to the call.

“Any kind of call like that on the river is going to get every agency activated,” Thompson said.

Thompson recommended that people undertaking uncommon recreational activities contact emergency services ahead of time to prevent agencies being activated unnecessarily.

“You don’t want to tell people not to have fun, as long as they do it safely,” Thompson said. “People could contact Soldotna dispatch, and let them know they’re going to do something crazy.”

Kant said false alarms divert the attention of emergency personnel and tie up resources that may be needed for more urgent matters.

“I would just encourage people not to follow his example,” Kant said.

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