Alaska Drownings - Body Retrieval
Organized by: Theodore Kawagley
On December 11, 2014 George Evan, Sally Stone and Ralph Demantle disappeared while traveling from Bethel to the remote Village of Akiak, Alaska. They had fallen thru Alaska's Kuskokwak Slough river ice on their ATV. Ralph Demantle's body was recovered soon after their disappearance, but Evans and Stone had yet to be found. A snowstorm forced Search and Rescue (SAR) to suspend the search on January 24 after 45 days. The search was hampered by poor weather and challenging water conditions, but SAR hoped to continue searching once conditions improved. Water visibility in the Kuskokwak Slough was only about 8-12 inches with the camera, but the sonar provided an additional 62 feet of visibility. The ROV was equipped with 260 ft. of tether which, coupled with the sonar's range, allowed the search team to cover 320-foot distances at once. "We are covering a greater amount of area in a shorter period of time compared to the old method of dragging bars. It is not easy work but it is much improved from what we are used to. The Edge Tech side scan sonar makes it so much easier and faster." Bethel and Akiak SAR spent more than 5 weeks searching unsuccessfully. Within 4 days, Tom, while using his Pro 4 ROV, located George Evan in about 46 feet (14 meters) of water and aproximatley a quarter-mile (.4 km) downstream from the accident site. Unfortunately, Tom, had to return to the Lower 48 with his equipment. As a result, Sally Stone's body was never recovered. Later when the ice broke, Sally's body was found on the river bank. The Video Ray Pro 4 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) equipped with BlueView V-130 multibeam imaging sonar was used extensively during an under ice drowning victim recovery on Alaska's Kuskokwak Slough. After seeing the Pro 4, SAR has learned a serious lesson about the value of current technology which can greatly reduce the time and labor spent in body recovery efforts. “If we of had the Edge Tech side scan sonar, the recovery effort for both Evan and Stone could have been successful within the first week of their tragedy." There is a much higher rate of drownings in Alaska. The snow fall often covers the rivers making it difficult to know the thickness of the ice and sometimes that you are even on the river. There are over 56 remote villages in Alaska, many of which are only accessible by plane, ATV's or snowmobiles in the winter. This valuable equipment would be available for use throughout ALL of Alaska! There is little that can be done to prevent these accidents from happening, but recovering the bodies and returning them to their loved ones is the least we can do to bring some kind of peace and closure to all those mourning. Our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of George Evan, Ralph Demantle, and Sally Stone and especially to the children they left behind. SAR hopes to acquire a Edge Tech side scan sonar in donations. We need your help and support desperately! We are raising money to buy a Edge Tech side scan sonar and Equipment and every penny counts. All donations, are great big and small, are truly appreciate we need your help. Thank you!