Rural Alaska

After 3-day search, 2 missing Selawik residents found alive

Selawik, Alaska Aerials

Rescue teams on Wednesday located two Selawik residents who were reported missing Sunday, according to city officials.

A local pilot spotted Timothy Snyder, 41, and Jane Kaiser, 20, at a spot northwest of Selawik Lake, near a fish camp owned by a Noorvik resident, Selawik Search and Rescue President Kirk Oviok said.

The individuals were transported to the Noorvik Clinic on Wednesday afternoon. Kaiser was doing OK, while Snyder “was hypothermic a little bit,” Oviok said.

“It’s good news,” Oviok said.

Two Kiana pilots, Ely Cyrus and “Big Boy” Lee Staheli, said they were searching the area for the past three days. Staheli, who is a Lee’s Sea Air pilot, said he spotted foot tracks coming out of the tundra toward the river, followed the tracks, and saw Snyder standing on top of the cabin waving the plane down.

“Pretty cool to find them after three days,” Staheli said. “That doesn’t happen very often, so we were really pretty relieved and humbled to be able to find them out there.”

Cyrus said he was able to land his Piper PA-12 on ice and bring Snyder and Kaiser to Noorvik, one at a time.

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Snyder and Kaiser were overdue after leaving Selawik on Nov. 13 to check fishing nets near Selawik Lake, said Lenora Foxglove, City of Selawik administrator, who was assisting with the search. The two left Selawik on a snowmachine at around 2 a.m., Alaska State Troopers wrote in an online statement.

Besides leaving the village after dark, Snyder and Kaiser went missing at the time of year when the trails are not yet marked with stakes for easier winter navigation, Foxglove said.

“It’s hard to tell which way you are going if you don’t see the trail,” she said.

Local search and rescue teams found their snowmachine trailer near the mouth of the Selawik River, troopers said, but found “no signs of Snyder or Kaiser” until Wednesday. Both ground and air search efforts were implemented.

On Wednesday morning, Selawik rescue teams expanded their search area to include the other side of Selawik Lake, where they located trails, Foxglove said.

A total of 11 Selawik snowmachines, as well as crews from Noorvik and Buckland, were still out on Wednesday afternoon, Oviok said. Residents were expecting to learn more about Kaiser and Snyder’s condition when search crews returned, Oviok said.

According to Staheli, the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers and a Bering Air helicopter were assisting in the search.

“It’s just really cool that our region comes together like that,” he said. “Everybody gets together and helps.”

The temperature in Selawik dropped to 9 below on Monday, with the coldest wind chills reported at below 20 that day, according to the National Weather Service.

Cyrus said Snyder and Kaiser sheltered in a cabin at the fish camp, but Snyder needed to burn some of his clothing to heat the cabin. He said Snyder had frostbite on his toes.

Both Snyder and Kaiser are known as volunteers in their community, Foxglove said.

“Tim assists with a lot of food deliveries for elders, he catches a lot of fish,” she said. “Jane helps with community events; she really is there as a helping hand.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said, based on information from Selawik Search and Rescue, that Cyrus Harris found Snyder and Kaiser.

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Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

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