SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


En route to visit a friend, he gets stranded
Anchorage Daily News


February 01, 2007
Thursday PM

WASILLA, Alaska -- Charles Keeter stood knee-deep atop his sunken snowmobile in a chilly creek for nearly three hours until a passing pilot caught sight of a flare.

The pilot landed on skis in a swampy area nearby and snowshoed an hour to reach Keeter, who fired the flare, according to a news release by the Alaska State Troopers.

The unidentified pilot left no record, apparently, of his identity.

The pilot made contact with Keeter, then returned to his aircraft, took off and landed somewhere to phone troopers, according to a dispatcher in Wasilla.

In response to the rescue call, Sgt. Mark Agnew hopped into a Piper Cub at Wasilla airport, flew to the site and landed on the same frozen marsh, covered in 4 feet of snow, where the first pilot had landed.

He too snowshoed to the creek where Keeter, jogging in place atop his snowmobile, waited for help.

"At least I think he was glad to see me," Agnew said.

Keeter, 41, told trooper he was headed for a friend's cabin when the ice atop the creek gave way and the snowmobile sank, Agnew said. Only its windscreen was visible above the water.

Keeter, in insulated bib overalls, boots and a black Carhartt jacket, was prepared for the weather. "It was fairly warm," the sergeant said. "It was probably 15 or 20 degrees above."

Using an ax he brought with him, Agnew cut down three small trees and laid them from the solid ice across the 15 or 20 feet of open water to Keeter's snowmobile. Keeter fastened the butt ends to the handlebars with a strap; he doffed some of his clothing and tossed them to Agnew in order to have dry clothes once he made his way off the snowmobile, Agnew said.

He said Keeter expressed doubt he could walk far and crawled across the small tree trunks, reaching for Agnew's outstretched snowshoe. The ice cracked and opened beneath both men before Keeter reached solid ground, and both ended up wet, Agnew said.

Because of deep snow, Keeter could not walk to Agnew's aircraft without snowshoes. Fortunately, an Air National Guard rescue helicopter arrived within minutes of Keeter reaching solid footing. Two men rappelled down, Agnew said.

Air Guard Staff Sgt. Eric Hamilton said the rescuers retrieved Keeter and flew him back to his departure point.

Keeter, none the worse for wear, declined further medical treatment.


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Ketchikan, Alaska