It was a week of joy and sorrow for many here on the central Kenai Peninsula.
We were relieved and grateful to hear the news Monday evening that the pilot and passengers of a small plane, missing since Sunday, had been located and were “alive and well.”
At the same time, we were saddened to hear of the death of a Soldotna man caught in an avalanche while snowmachining near Cooper Landing, even as we were glad to learn that another rider had been rescued.
We also hope everyone reading this takes to heart the comments from Lt. Joseph Plunkett, the pilot of the Coast Guard rescue helicopter that picked up the pilot and passengers of the missing plane: “This rescue was possible because of the joint effort put forth between the Coast Guard and Alaska Rescue Coordination Center and because the pilot was prepared with the necessary safety equipment. I can’t put enough emphasis on how crucial it is to have safety equipment whenever transiting through Alaska. Alaska is full of remote and often dangerous areas, and in this case, because the pilot was prepared, we were able to rescue the three people and bring them back to their family.”
We heartily agree with Lt. Plunkett’s sentiments. We sometimes forget just how big and wild Alaska is — and how quickly we can find ourselves in some of those dangerous situations.
According to accounts, the Soldotna men caught in the avalanche while snowmachining were carrying avalanche beacons, which allowed those on the scene to find the buried rider quickly — though with the snow described as being set up like concrete, it still took some 15 minutes to dig him out.
And while the locator beacon on the downed plane was an older model, which slowed the search effort, the pilot was prepared with safety equipment, including a flare to signal other aircraft.
It may seem at times that safety precautions are unnecessary — after all, it’s just a short flight from Anchorage to the peninsula, for example — but in a worst-case scenario, that extra bit of preparedness gives you that much more of a chance at being rescued.
Even for a short trip, make sure someone knows where you’re going, and who to call if you don’t return when you’re supposed to. Check the first-aid kit. Make sure there’s batteries in the flashlight and extra warm layers packed or stowed.
We’re appreciative of all of our fellow Alaskans who are willing to help when someone finds themselves in trouble, from volunteer searchers to professional rescue personnel. And we hope that before venturing out across Alaska — whether you’re planning just a quick trip or a grand excursion — take a few minutes to make sure that in the event of an emergency, you’re prepared.