Guard rescues hunter, rollover victims on wintry double mission

zhollander@adn.comSeptember 19, 2013 

Alaska Air National Guard airmen rescued a hunter with health problems and two trapped rollover accident victims caught in blizzard conditions during the same trip Wednesday.

Hunter Michael Lavin, 67, of Anchorage reported heart trouble while hunting with a group south of Mankomen Lake on Tuesday, according to the Guard and Alaska State Troopers. Someone in his hunting group contacted troopers using a satellite phone.

Troopers contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center to respond to the area, about 25 miles east of Paxson.

Weather turned back the first wave of aircraft -- a Pave Hawk helicopter and rescue C-130 carrying four rescuers -- that launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the Guard said. The troopers couldn't get there because of the "large rivers that the trail crosses," a dispatch said.

But by about 10 a.m. Wednesday, another Pave Hawk launched from Eielson Air Force Base was able to land at the hunting camp, the Guard said. It picked up Lavin, in pain but in stable condition, and flew him to JBER, where an ambulance transported him to Providence Alaska Medical Center.

Meanwhile, the Pave Hawk crew was flying back to Eielson when they spotted an overturned vehicle on the Richardson Highway just before 11:30 a.m., the Guard said.

The vehicle had rolled down a 15-foot embankment and came to rest in a creek.

Troopers got word of an injury rollover at Mile 188 of the highway at about 10:50 a.m. Wednesday. The area was "experiencing blizzardlike conditions with significant snow accumulation on the roadway," troopers said in a dispatch.

Driver Steven Alley Sr., 69, of Valdez was northbound in a 2000 Chevrolet pickup with passengers Steven Alley Jr., 47, and Christopher Alley, 18, both of Valdez, troopers said. He lost control of the pickup, spun 180 degrees, crossed the southbound lane and rolled over the embankment into a shallow creek, troopers said.

The Guard helicopter landed and the rescuers cut the trapped victims out of the vehicle and hoisted them to the helicopter, now hovering above.

"They didn't want to take the other two up the hill because they had suffered back and head injuries," RCC controller Master Sgt. Armando Soria said in a release. "These guys were pretty lucky. Our guys got there approximately 15 minutes after it happened."

The Guard medics treated all three, who were complaining of pain, troopers said. The helicopter flew the crash victims to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

The pickup was totaled. No alcohol was suspected, troopers said. Only passenger Steven Alley Jr. was reported to be wearing a seatbelt.

A trooper drove from Delta to the crash site, at times driving 10 mph in an effort to stay on the road, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said. "The trooper said the weather got really, really nasty once he got south of Black Rapids."

Reach Zaz Hollander at or 257-4317.

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