Responders rescued in attempt to rescue stranded boater

  • Monday, November 10, 2014 10:45pm
  • News

In an attempt to rescue a stranded boater Sunday night, four Central Emergency Services responders became stranded themselves before the five were rescued hours later.

CES received a distress call at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday from a boater, Eric Ohlson, 47, of Anchorage, who experienced engine failure on his 22-foot vessel on Upper Skilak Lake.

CES Health and Safety Officer Brad Nelson said the 22-foot rigid hull inflatable rescue boat was deployed from the Funny River fire station. With no natural light and high winds by the time the crew of four left the boat launch, the responders had limited visibility on the choppy water, he said.

“It seemed like an easy rescue at first,” he said. “(The crew) got out into the water and it was nasty and windy out there and the waves pushed them into rocks and they got stuck.”

The rescue boat ran aground near Caribou Island. Nelson said instead of risking another boat to get stuck in the rough conditions, Alaska State Troopers dispatched an aerial rescue through the Rescue Coordination Center.

Master Sgt. Armando Soria, a controller with the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center said they received notification from two separate personal locator beacons through their satellite notification system. The coordinates from the beacons plotted both points in the Skilak Lake area, according to a press release from the Alaska department of Military Affairs.

Troopers requested assistance from the Alaska Air National Guard, who accepted the mission at 7 p.m. and launched a Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron and a HC-130 “King” aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron. Each had a team of Guardian Angels from the 212th Rescue Squadron on board, according to the release.

Ohlson contacted authorities after his boat’s engine jammed, which rendered his vessel out of control. The wind blew his boat across the lake in waves up to six feet high, Soria said in the release.

All five were rescued uninjured by about 10:15 p.m. The Pave Hawk picked up Ohlson and brought him to shore first before returning to pick up the CES crew, who were stranded about a half-mile from the Ohlson, according to the release.

By the time the rescue crew arrived, the winds had blown both boats to the shoreline, which allowed the Pave Hawk to land nearby and pick up the five men, according to the release.

The rescue boat was retrieved by CES Monday morning.

Nelson said because most boaters have put their vessels away for the winter, the rescue boat was stored at the Funny River station, which added to the response time. The CES crew built a campfire to keep warm while they waited to be rescued.

“They got to hang out there for and camp for the night,” he said.

Reach Dan Balmer at

More in News

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kenai Municipal Airport on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. A kiosk that will offer educational programming and interpretive products about the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is coming to the airport. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsua Clarion)
Wildlife refuge kiosk coming to airport

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge stickers, T-shirts, magnets, travel stamps and enamel pins will be available.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
5 more COVID deaths reported

The total nationwide fatalities surpass population of Alaska.

Velda Geller fills goodie bags at the Kenai Senior Center on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 for next weekend’s drive-through trick-or-treat event. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘This has been a lifesaver’

Seniors seek human connection as pandemic continues.

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
‘A very slippery slope that we need to be careful of’

Approval of library grant postponed after Kenai council requests to preview book purchases

This undated photo released by the Alaska State Department of Public Safety shows Robin Pelkey just before her 18th birthday. The remains of a woman known for 37 years only as Horseshoe Harriet, one of 17 victims of a notorious Alaska serial killer, have been identified through DNA profiling as Robin Pelkey, authorities said Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. (Alaska State Department of Public Safety via AP)
DNA match IDs serial killer’s victim after 37 years

Robin Pelkey was 19 and living on the streets of Anchorage when she was killed by Robert Hansen in the early 1980s, investigators said.

A moose is photographed in Kalifornsky, Alaska, in July 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Illegal moose harvest down from past 5 years

The large majority of moose this year were harvested from North and South Kasilof River areas.

Renee Behymer and Katelyn Behymer (right) of Anchorage win this week’s vaccine lottery college scholarship sweepstakes. (Photo provided)
Dillingham and Anchorage residents win 6th vaccine lottery

“Get it done,” one winner said. “Protect us all, protect our elders and our grandchildren.”

Most Read