Manokotak search and rescue team recovers missing traveler unharmed

Feb 12, 2018

On Friday, a man’s snow machine broke down between Manokotak and Dillingham. A volunteer search and rescue team found him early Saturday morning. The man was uninjured and returned safely home.

A search and rescue team successfully recovered an overdue snow machine rider near Dillingham this weekend. The traveler left Manokotak for Dillingham Friday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. Alaska State Troopers received a report around 7:30 p.m. that no one had heard from the man, that he was new to the area and that his cell phone battery had died.

Troopers coordinated a volunteer search and rescue team from Manokotak. Temperatures hovered around freezing as three or four people looked for the missing man. Searchers found him at about 2:40 a.m. Saturday morning.

“Visibility was pretty bad, so he lost sight of the trail and kind of got a little bit off of it,” said state trooper Justin Hilario. “But when the search and rescue team was out there, he saw the headlights and ran toward them. His snow machine had broken down, so they were able to get it working and got him back home safely. There was no complication with him being out in the elements.”

Hilario said that the traveler made several decisions that compromised his safety. The man was traveling alone and without a device, such as a GPS, that would have allowed him to send a distress signal. Further, he had not told anyone the route he planned to take.  

As people get out on snow machines this winter, Hilario said, it is important to confirm a travel plan with people who are not traveling. He offered that people can even establish a travel plan with Alaska State Troopers.

“They can call us and set up a trip plan—where they’re going, the time they’re leaving and the expected time of return. If they get outside of that and they don’t close the trip plan, then we can basically self-activate a search and rescue for them,” said Hilario.

Hilario stressed the importance of being prepared for mishap on every snow machine trip. He recommended bringing water, food, a change of clothing and a flashlight or flare to signal rescuers in case of low visibility. He emphasized that it is safer to travel with at least one travel partner than to travel alone.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.