A USCG Air Station Sitka crew rescued three kayakers on the Chilkat River over the weekend. Video of the rescue operation can be watched here (USCG Image)

Three kayakers were safely rescued by an Air Station Sitka helicopter crew after capsizing in the Chilkat River Sunday (07/18/21) night, about 18 miles from Haines. 

One male paddler and two women were separated after capsizing both their kayaks and a raft, and became stranded at different places along the river. One of the party alerted authorities to the situation using a satellite communication device called an “InReach.” 

 Tyler Conners, the rescue swimmer who flew on the mission, said the group had covered their bases.

“They were about as well prepared as they could be. They all they had an InReach which was great for them. It helped to help them get into contact with [Alaska] State Troopers and then communicate to us kind of what what their situation was like and where they were at. And then dry suits and, and life jackets as well,” Conners said.

“They did seem a little bit nervous,” he continued. “The one on the cliff was particularly a little scared…just scared from their situation that they were in.” 

The Chilkat is a fast-flowing glacial river. Conners says each of the kayakers was in a unique predicament that created challenges for the helicopter crew, when it arrived shortly before 10:30 p.m.

“It was particularly difficult to rescue these guys because, mostly just because of the positions they were in. The first gentleman was out on an island kind of in the middle of the river. He wasn’t super hard. The other two females that were on the riverbank were particularly challenging one because one of them was on a kind of steep riverbank. Pretty pretty hard to get to and very slippery,” he said. “And then the other one was kind of trapped almost in this like, cave like thing just on the side of the river with the with a tree overhead and her kayak blocking the entrance into it.”

Conners says it took about 45 minutes to hoist all three of the kayakers aboard the helicopter. The trio was flown to the Haines airport where they were met by EMS personnel. No serious injuries were reported.