Alaska Air Guardsmen rescue man from submerged truck in Cache Creek

August 29, 2016
By Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Members of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th, and 212th Rescue Squadrons, and the California Air National Guard’s 130th Rescue Squadron rescued a man who was washed downriver in his truck about 25 miles west of Talkeetna Friday, Aug. 26.

The man may have been trying to cross Cache Creek in his truck, according to Lt. Col. Keenan Zerkel, the Pave Hawk helicopter pilot.

“There’s a mining road 100 to 200 yards up stream that crosses the creek, but water levels have been higher lately due to the amount of rainfall,” said Zerkel.

The man crawled out of the cab of his truck and on top of the vehicle while it was moving downstream and a bystander who was with him left the scene for cell service to call for help. He reached the Alaska State Troopers, who contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center to request support from the Air National Guard due to their hoisting and pararescue capabilities.

Air National Guard assets were deployed for the mission, including an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter with two pararescuemen onboard and an MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft, which provided aerial refueling in support of the mission.

This rescue required a high-hover technique with a 180-foot hoist, which is four-and-a-half times higher than typical hoist missions, according to Zerkel.

“This technique weakens the rotor wash and we didn’t want to risk blowing him off of the vehicle,” said Zerkel. “High-hover weakens the strength of the rotor wash near the surface,” he said.

The distressed individual was hoisted from the partially submerged vehicle and released uninjured.

High waters contributed to a rafting incident at Lake Creek that the Air National Guard responded to earlier this month, saving a father and son who were stranded for five days after their raft overturned.

“People need to exercise extreme caution because of the additional rain we’ve had lately, and they should check conditions before heading out to the water,” said Zerkel.

River observations and forecasts may be checked at the National Weather Service website at http://www.weather.gov/aprfc/riverConditions.

For this mission, the 130th, 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were awarded with one save.

Video from this rescue is available at: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/481120/alaska-air-guardsmen-rescue-man-submerged-truck-cache-creek