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Story Last modified at 8:58 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Second search and rescue in two years

Alaska Star

David Joerg, the 54-year-old Eagle River man extricated from a crevasse on the Nelchina Glacier on April 16, was involved in another high-profile rescue not much more than a year ago.

Joerg and an Anchorage man, John Longley, spent a freezing night outside without shelter on the Willow side of Hatcher Pass in February 2010 after losing track of each other on what was supposed to be a day of snowmachining.

The men left Joerg's pickup at Mile 10 of Hatcher Pass Road around 10 a.m. on Feb. 6, according to an Alaska State Troopers report at the time.

At about 5:30 p.m., one of the men called troopers to notify them that the pair had become separated. He provided with GPS coordinates.

Poor weather conditions turned around the troopers helicopter six miles from the GPS location.

Members of the Mat-Su's MATSAR team and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group – the same organization involved in last Saturday's crevasse rescue – got ready to start a ground search early the next day.

But the snow was so powdery the rescue group's snowmachines were sinking in, said Dean Knapp, an Eagle River resident and Mountain Rescue Group volunteer who served as a commander on the 2010 rescue. Once the helicopter got in the air, Knapp said, the search was over in 45 minutes.

The helicopter located Longley four miles east of the pickup and Joerg six miles east of it, the troopers said.

The men "did the right thing" once they got separated: staying there and circling, Knapp said. One ran out of gas, however, and the other got stuck in a hole.

"Neither one of them was lost," he said. "Either one of them could have come back to the truck but they were looking for their buddy which is the right thing to do."

The incident was featured on the Discovery Channel show, "Alaska State Troopers."

Joerg said a "lack of communication" escalated the problem that February day last year. He doesn't want to think that the glacier rescue and that one represent some kind of pattern for him, he said. "Nobody wants to say, 'OK, we're going to go out, drop off a glacier. '"

Rescue volunteer Knapp said the men involved did pretty well during the snowmachine incident.

"But we questioned going out on the glacier without being roped up," he said.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, April 20, 2011.