By Chris Klint
5:49 PM EDT, September 20, 2011
The Alaska Air National Guard says it rescued three people Monday night, with ANG aircraft and personnel responding to both a bear mauling near Paxson and a plane crash south of Fairbanks.
Both rescues were requested by Alaska State Troopers, who called the 11th Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center at 5:05 p.m. to report the bear mauling victim at the McLaren River Lodge, 50 miles west of Paxson.
According to troopers spokesperson Megan Peters the victim of the mauling, 65-year-old Anchorage resident Donald Sandford, was hunting five miles north of the lodge and shot the bear which mauled him before it ran off into the woods. Sandford had to make his way back to the lodge to receive help.
An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and an HC-130 Hercules plane were sent to the area, with the Pave Hawk dropping off rescue personnel to stabilize Sandford before refueling and flying him to Anchorage in stable condition.
RCC Director Lt. Col. Paul Vanderweide said troopers asked the ANG to assist due to poor weather and the inability of civilian medevac units to respond.
“Because the victim sustained multiple lacerations to the abdomen, back, neck and hands and had been bleeding for a couple hours before we received the call, it made it fairly time critical to get him to medical care as quickly as possible,” Vanderweide said. “With the refueling, helicopter and onboard medical capabilities, we were the best option.”
A second request for help came from state troopers in Fairbanks at 8:21 p.m., who called the RCC to report a plane crash near the Blair Lakes Range about 20 miles south of Fairbanks. A Pave Hawk responded to the scene, where rescuers picked up two uninjured men who didn’t have survival gear on board their plane.
“These guys probably thought they were going out for a quick trip, but this time of year it can go from a nice day to putting you into a survival situation, so it’s extremely important to carry survival gear with you at all times,” Vanderweide said. “With the temperature in the 30s and raining, it was perfect conditions for hypothermia.”The men were flown to Eielson Air Force Base, where they were released to base security forces and ultimately state troopers.
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