Searchers find two missing parties from Brevig Mission

Posted: Sunday, April 08, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Four Brevig Mission residents who became disoriented in blizzards were found alive Saturday between Teller and Nome.

''Everyone is doing fine,'' said Pat Hahn, assistant fire chief of the Nome Volunteer Fire Department.

Meanwhile, farther north searchers continued to look for two lost teenagers from Selawik.

In the Brevig Mission case, searchers from Teller and Nome had been looking for the two separate parties, who got lost in blowing snow Thursday and Friday on their way to Nome.

Hahn said the weather calmed enough for a few hours Saturday to allow volunteers to search the 72-mile stretch between Nome and Teller, which is near Brevig Mission. Temperatures Saturday were in the 20s, Hahn said.

The missing were Ester Alana, 19, and Jonathan Weyanna Jr., 34, Ron Bloomstrand Jr. and Simon Jack.

Alana and Weyanna left the village on one snowmachine around noon Thursday. Hahn said the two were heading to Nome to buy groceries with their fish-disaster checks. Local merchants have run out of oil and fuel, but some people are using private stashes to trek from village to village, Hahn said.

Searchers from Teller found Alana and Weyanna Saturday afternoon near the Feather River, midway to Nome. Hahn described the area as a windy ''blow hole,'' and said many people en route to Nome get lost here.

That's what happened to Alana and Weyanna. They decided to stay put in the whiteout conditions for two nights, using a tarp to stay warm, Hahn said. With the help of the volunteer searchers, the pair rode back to Teller on Saturday.

Bloomstrand and Jack left Brevig Mission on two snowmachines Friday morning and headed for Nome, where Bloomstrand had an afternoon doctor's appointment.

The pair got lost near a creek about 26 miles from Nome.

''They were dressed warmly and they had a tarp, so they hunkered down for the night,'' Hahn said.

One of their snowmachines ran out of gas. But the pair used the other sled to find their way back to the trail, where searchers from Nome found them Saturday afternoon and refueled the machine.

Bloomstrand and Jack completed their run to Nome, and were in good shape, Hahn said.

''It went well for both parties because there was no alcohol involved and people kept their judgment,'' he said. ''When there's no alcohol, this is how it always ends up.''

Meanwhile farther north, the search continued Saturday for two teenagers from Selawik who have been missing for nearly a week.

Louise Clark, 19, and Martha Foster, 16, were last seen Monday evening in the village of Noorvik, where they came to watch a basketball tournament. They reportedly were heading back to Selawik in a blizzard.

Trooper Dan Cox in Kotzebue said 92 volunteer searchers on snowmachines were gathering Saturday evening at two base camps. The searchers came from the villages of Noorvik, Selawik, Kotzebue, Noatak, Kiana, Buckland, Ambler and Shungnak.

Most of the area has run out of oil and fuel -- a precious commodity for the sled-dependent searchers who plan to check shelter cabins in the region. So 20 cases of oil and four 55-gallon drums of fuel were flown up from Anchorage Saturday and were being distributed to the base camps.

As evening fell, 27 mph winds were quickly causing the mid-20 degree temperatures to plunge, Cox said. But no one was giving up hope just yet.

''I've been a trooper for 17 years, and you never know what can happen,'' he said. ''Sometimes it's two weeks later and you find someone OK. Sometimes you don't. So it's hard to make predictions.''

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