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Helicopter rescues hikers less than a mile from their vehicle

Casey Grove

A state helicopter rescued two Anchorage men earlier this month near McHugh Creek and flew them to their vehicle less than a mile away, troopers reported Tuesday.

Troopers say the 911 call came in about 7 p.m. April 15. The men -- Keenan Casteel, 32, and Dallas Cox, 18 -- said they had hiked to the top of a trail near the creek and were on the way back down when they realized they'd left the trail, troopers said. Casteel and Cox were cold, wet and exhausted, said troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.

"It was in slushy snow. They didn't have proper gear," Ipsen said. "They reported they were cold and unable to hike back because of deep snow."

When the cell phone the men used to call 911 cut out, members of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and the troopers' Helo 1 headed to the area, just south of the city, to try to find them, Ipsen said.

The helicopter crew found the men 750 feet, or about two-and-a-half football fields, from the parking lot from which they'd set out, troopers said. The parking lot is bordered by mountains on one side and ocean and a busy highway on the other. Both men were uninjured and flown back to the parking lot about four hours after the 911 call, Ipsen said.

Operating the helicopter for the rescue cost the troopers about $910, Ipsen said. The rescued men would not be charged, she said.

Ipsen said their story shouldn't discourage people from calling for help.

"We don't want people not calling us," she said. "We err on the side of caution, because we don't want cries for help to go unanswered and then disaster strikes. Our goal is public safety."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.


By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News