Alaska News

Man struck by rock during Lake Clark helicopter rescue suffered brain injury

An Alaska national park employee struck last month by rock kicked up by a rescue helicopter suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to a spokesperson for the park.

Kenton Hotsko, 29, was injured as the Alaska Air National Guard was rescuing another hiker Aug. 31. Search-and-rescue personnel with the Alaska Guard responded to Copper Mountain in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve after receiving a call about Brian Dodd.

Dodd, 34, had suffered possible life-threatening injuries after falling down a steep, rocky cliff on the mountain while hiking, Alaska State Troopers said.

After Dodd's fall 30 to 50 feet down an unstable slope, three hikers near the top of the nearly 5,000-foot mountain provided first aid. The hiking party, which included Hotsko, was unable to evacuate Dodd due to his injuries and the terrain, according to the guard.

Two aircraft, an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and an HC-130, flew from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to help the injured man. During the rescue, rotor wash from the helicopter kicked loose rock that hit Hotsko in the head, Lake Clark public information officer Megan Richotte previously told Alaska Dispatch News.

Days later, on Sept. 3, Providence Alaska Medical Center listed Dodd in fair condition and Hotsko in critical condition.

Richotte said Friday that Hotsko suffered a traumatic brain injury and remains in care.


Both injured men are park employees. Dodd, of Port Angeles, Washington, is a seasonal maintenance employee at the park. Hotsko, of Arizona, is a term employee. Both had been working at the park since May. Hotsko remains a park employee, Richotte said.

Providence now lists Hotsko in good condition. Richotte said she couldn't provide additional medical details.

Since the accident, a specialist from Glacier Bay National Park has conducted a "critical incident stress debriefing" with Lake Clark staff, Richotte said. The specialist provides counseling to employees and their families.

"The park service does that after big, stressful events of any kind," she said. "People's support and thoughts are very much appreciated for our staff."

The guard did not immediately return a call for comment.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.