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Are Alaska State Troopers becoming a wilderness taxi service?

Craig Medred
Aaron Jansen illustration

A couple of guys from Wasilla get their truck stuck in the Delta River in Alaska's Interior, so what do they do? They call Alaska State Troopers. And what do troopers do? They send a helicopter 230 miles northeast to pick up 42-year-old Michael O'loughlin, 43-year-old Gary Root, and two juveniles.

It sounds like a perfect episode for "Alaska State Troopers," the reality TV show.

O'loughlin, Root and the kids "had been hunting on the west side of the Delta River near the Donnelly Creek State Campground and while trying to cross back across the severely braided river had gotten (O'loughlin's) truck stuck," according to a trooper dispatch statement. They called troopers to report their dangerous predicament on Sunday evening.

"O'loughlin and his party were uninjured and properly equipped to camp where they were at for the night," according to the trooper report, but obviously help was needed. Troopers were soon on their way.

At 7:30 a.m. Monday, troopers report, "AST Helo 1 launched from Anchorage, recovered the stranded hunters and flew them back to Wasilla."

Could an Alaskan ask for better service than this from a state agency? But there has to be more to the story, right? Or at least that's a legitimate question to ask, given how much it costs to launch a rescue, and how some in the Alaska public seem to get their undies all in a bunch anytime the National Park Service sends a helicopter to rescue a Mount McKinley climber facing life-threatening danger.

And the rest of the story is?

"That's it," Root said when reached by Alaska Dispatch on Thursday.

O'loughlin got his truck stuck in the Delta near the Donnelly Creek State Recreation Site at Mile 238 of the Richardson Highway, about 32 miles south of Delta, the town, and troopers came to give everyone a helicopter ride home.

The truck, Root added, "is still in the river. It was a pretty decent truck. It's supposed to be recovered."

O'loughlin, he said, is now arranging with a contractor in Delta to stage the recovery. The contractor needs to get a permit from the state before he can drive heavy equipment into the river. But the recovery shouldn't be hard. The weather is cooling fast in the Interior of Alaska, and the Delta, a glacial stream, is dropping accordingly. The glaciers stop melting in winter, and gushing glacial rivers drop to a trickle.

Still, this will surely prove to be a costly hunting trip for O'loughlin, Root and the kids, and thus a lesson in the perils of trying to drive your truck across a glacial river, right?

Well, maybe not.

"It's not my truck; it's my buddy's," Root said. "(But) Geico said they'd fully cover him."

It's obviously nice to have friends like troopers and Geico insurance.

The author's views are his own and not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com