Troopers helicopter crew rescues teens from sandbar as area rivers rise

An Alaska State Troopers helicopter crew rescued two 18-year-old campers stranded Monday evening by rising water on the Matanuska River near Sutton.

The rescue came as the National Weather Service issued a high-water warning for that river and numerous others in Southcentral Alaska.

One of the Eagle River teens, Tatum J. Bertholl, called troopers from a sandbar near where Eska Creek empties into the Matanuska, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters and an online troopers dispatch posted Tuesday.

Tatum was camping with a friend, Mikenzie S. Patz, but their vehicle got stuck in mud and rising water when they tried to leave, troopers said. The river's sudden rise also prevented family members from reaching them.

Arriving troopers also deemed the river too dangerous to cross.

A troopers helicopter crew, returning from another rescue mission on Lake Creek in the Susitna Valley, picked up the two and brought them to a runway owned by a nearby resident, troopers said.

The Matanuska River, fed by melting snow and recent rains, rose to 25,500 cubic feet per second overnight Monday, according to a National Weather Service hydrograph.


Forecasters predicted the river would crest before it hit the level of 30,000 cubic feet per second at which minor flooding starts, the agency said. Local residents are watching for erosion, however.

Numerous rivers from Anchorage to the Susitna Valley were the subject of a special weather statement issued late Monday.

Water is running high on the Yentna at Lake Creek, the Talkeetna River near Talkeetna, the Susitna River at Gold Creek, Willow Creek at the Parks Highway, the Little Susitna near Palmer and Houston, and the Matanuska River, according to the weather service. Water levels were expected to remain high for a couple of days due to rain and ongoing snowmelt.

Small streams like Ship Creek in Anchorage will remain high for a shorter time, forecasters said.

The Lake Creek rescue Monday was also high-water related, Peters said.

Troopers got a report of a capsized boat on the creek near Skwentna around 4:30 p.m. Monday, she said in an email. None of the three people in the boat were hurt but one needed medication.

The trio got stranded on a sandbar by water too high to navigate to shore, troopers said. The boat — and their provisions — got stuck in a sweeper.

The troopers helicopter picked them up and took them to Willow, Peters wrote.

High water on Lake Creek was also reported in late May when a Bulchitna Lake property owner, William L. Mazoch, went missing. His body was found in a log jam on the creek.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials said in a press release around noon Tuesday that they're monitoring area creeks but don't anticipate significant flooding given dropping water levels at the Parks Highway.

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at