Wrangell Search and Rescue Responds to Collision in Wrangell Narrows

WRANGELL, Alaska (KINY) — Wrangell Search and Rescue (SAR) responded to a distress call on June 5, 2024, after receiving a Mayday message via Marine Channel 16 about a collision involving two vessels in the Wrangell Narrows. The incident, reported around 9:00 a.m., resulted in two individuals being thrown into the water.

Wrangell SAR quickly dispatched a team by float plane, which included two EMT 2’s equipped with advanced life support equipment and a rescue diver. One individual was rescued from the water by one of the vessels involved in the collision, with the assistance of a nearby Good Samaritan vessel. The rescued person was then transported to Petersburg for medical treatment via the Alaska State Trooper vessel.

Upon arrival approximately 40 minutes after the Mayday call, Wrangell SAR commenced an air grid search, eventually spotting a small fuel slick on the water’s surface. The float plane landed, positioning an EMT on standby aboard a fishing vessel and deploying a rescue diver and another EMT onto the trooper vessel. Sonar identified a probable site, prompting an investigative dive by the Wrangell diver, which determined no vessel was present.

Recognizing the need for specialized equipment, the plane returned to Wrangell to retrieve a thermal drone, recently acquired through community donations, and a Water Search and Rescue dog. The thermal drone successfully detected a fuel plume rising from beneath the water, near the dive team’s location. With coordination between the drone pilot and the dive team, they narrowed their search area. The Water SAR dog alerted that there was a submerged body in the area of interest.

With coordination between Wrangell SAR and Petersburg SAR divers, the missing victim was located and recovered from the depths.

The collaborative efforts involved multiple agencies and resources, including the United States Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, Petersburg Police Department, Petersburg Search and Rescue, and Wrangell Search and Rescue. Despite the transition from a rescue to a recovery mission, Wrangell SAR remains committed to responding promptly to such challenging situations.