Coast Guard rescues 4 from skiff adrift since Friday

Michelle Theriault Boots

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued four people from the village of Platinum on Sunday who had been drifting with an ice floe in Bristol Bay for days after their skiff ran out of gas.

The crew was found 23 miles from Port Heiden and more than 173 miles from where they originally set out. Platinum is a tiny village on the northern side of Bristol Bay. Port Heiden is on the Alaska Peninsula.

The four people, who have not been identified by the Coast Guard, embarked Friday on a planned subsistence gull egg-gathering trip to a small island near Cape Newenham, 23 miles from Platinum, said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Roberto.

After motoring their 18-foot skiff into ice to avoid a storm, they ran out of gas and started drifting with the floe.

"They were tucking in behind the ice floe to get away from some strong winds," Roberto said.

It wasn't clear how far the men were from Platinum when they started drifting.

On Friday, Alaska State Troopers asked the Coast Guard for help looking for the overdue men. But when another skiff turned up with the same number of people aboard, troopers mistakenly thought it was the missing vessel and called off the search, the Coast Guard said.

On Sunday, family members told Troopers the crew was still missing.

The Coast Guard launched a Kodiak-based HC-130 Hercules plane, which spotted the skiff and the ice floe at about 9:45 a.m. on Sunday.

A Jayhawk MH-60 rescue helicopter hoisted the crew off the skiff at around 12:30 p.m..

Chief Petty Officer Jeffery Roberto said the rescued mariners did not report injuries but were taken to Dillingham for medical evaluation.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.

Anchorage Daily News