Rescuers spent a chilly Friday night out near Nellie-Juan Lake after weather hampered efforts to fly an injured snowmachiner out from the remote location near Seward. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter hoisted the snowmachiner, 49-year-old Don Feltman of Kenai, late Saturday morning and flew him to Providence Hospital in Anchorage for treatment of suspected back and arm injuries.
At about 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Alaska State Troopers dispatch received a call for help from the Houston, Texas-based SPOT geo-locator reporting an activation and provided coordinates in the Nellie-Juan Lake area, which is off of 13 Mile Seward Highway. The locator was registered to a Kasilof man known to be riding with a group of snowmachiners in that area.
Seward Police Department received a second call from another snowmachiner reporting he was among that group and Feltman was injured after riding off a cliff.
Weather prevented Alaska State Troopers' Helo 1, Coast Guard and Alaska Air National Guard helicopters from responding. Meanwhile, six snowmachiners braved heavy and blowing snow to reach the injured man.
Once there, they determined he could not be safely taken out that night. Medical care was given to stabilize Feltman and the group settled in to spend the night in the cold.
Saturday morning, additional personnel joined the efforts. Multiple units were staged at the trail head while additional units responded to the victim to provide support. While weather kept helicopters grounded north of Seward, the Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Kodiak. During a break in the weather at about 11 a.m., the Jayhawk flew into the area, hoisted Feltman up into the helicopter and transported him to Anchorage for treatment.
Troopers urge outdoor recreationists to use caution in the backcountry following this extreme weather front. The fresh snow will be unstable and avalanche potential could be high. File a Wilderness Trip Plan found on the Public Information Web site at http://www.dps.state.ak.us/PIO/docs/WildernessTripPlan.pdf. Chugach National Forest avalanche information may be found at http://www.cnfaic.org/advisories/current.php.
-- Staff report
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