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Injured hiker, companion rescued from ridge near Girdwood after 30-foot fall

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: July 18, 2019
  • Published July 18, 2019
Video from the Alaska National Guard shows the area in the Chugach Mountains near Girdwood where two hikers were rescued. (Courtesy UH-60 crew chief Staff Sgt. Brad McKenzie)

The Alaska National Guard on Wednesday rescued a 22-year-old hiker from Anchorage who spent the night outside after he was badly injured in a 30-foot fall in the Chugach Mountains near Girdwood, authorities say.

The hiker’s companion, who climbed a nearby peak to wave down rescuers, was also picked up by the Army Guard UH-60 Black Hawk, the Guard said.

Ben Seaman fell from Penguin Ridge and injured his leg on Tuesday evening, Alaska State Troopers said. A trooper helicopter couldn’t locate Seaman because of bad weather, and the weather also kept LifeMed from responding. The Rescue Coordination Center, which dispatches military crews, didn’t have any air assets available that night.

The ridge stretches high above the Seward Highway between Bird Creek and Girdwood.

Seaman ended up at the bottom of a saddle in steep, rocky terrain at 3,600 feet, the Guard said.

In a video posted to his Instagram account, Seaman appeared to have a cut on his chin and said his left leg was unusable due to a ligament injury treated at Providence Alaska Medical Center. He also described the helicopter trying to find them Tuesday night, but fog obscured the area and he and his partner were forced to stay on the mountain: “We hunkered down for the night and curled up in a ball for 11 hours.”

Early Wednesday morning, the Black Hawk from the 2-104th’s Golf Company, Detachment 2, left Bryant Army Airfield on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson with a flight medic, according to the Guard. The medevac unit stood up in 2017, and Wednesday’s mission was its first rescue with hoist.

The Alaska Army National Guard rescued two hikers from Penguin Ridge, between Girdwood and Bird Creek, on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (Courtesy UH-60 crew chief Staff Sgt. Brad McKenzie)

The crew, with pilot 2nd Lt. Cody McKinney, scanned the ridge on the way to pick up pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron in Girdwood. They spotted the hikers, “waved” the helicopter at them, then continued to Girdwood before heading back to the hikers, McKinney said in an account of the rescue. McKinney is the medevac unit commander.

The pararescuemen dropped down to the peak and descended to the injured hiker to find that Seaman couldn’t walk, the Guard said. He and his companion were hoisted out from the saddle, with the helicopter about 70 feet from the ground.

Seaman was taken to an Anchorage hospital for treatment of injuries described as not life-threatening.

The Guard rescue was a joint mission, with the Army Guard providing the helicopter, crew and medic and the Air Guard providing the pararescuemen, officials say.

Volunteers with the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group also responded, troopers said.