A Homer man was walking on a piece of ice near Anchor Point on Saturday when it broke off and drifted into Cook Inlet, stranding him until a nearby charter boat came to his rescue.
Jaime Snedden, 45, was treated for hypothermia and is expected to fully recover, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
But that’s a rare happy ending for such a story, said Nate Littlejohn, a petty officer with the Coast Guard. He said it’s also an important reminder that sea ice during periods of rapid warmth can be dangerous.
“We were very happy that things turned out the way that they did,” Littlejohn said. “We’re very thankful someone was around to help out.”
According to a trooper dispatch, Alaska Wildlife Troopers learned Snedden was floating out to sea around 11:11 a.m. Saturday. He was spotted near the Anchor Point Tractor Launch, where the Anchor River meets Cook Inlet.
The Coast Guard said Snedden was walking along the shoreline of the river when the ice broke off. The water temperature at the time was about 38 degrees and the air temperature was 30 degrees, the Coast Guard said in a post.
When a trooper arrived around 11:47, he found Snedden about 300 yards offshore, submerged except for his head and arms and clinging to a piece of ice. He was not wearing a life vest.
Littlejohn said the Coast Guard was notified just after the troopers and considered sending a helicopter for the rescue. But the closest helicopter was headed out to Kodiak to refuel.
So the guard sent out a broadcast.
“It’s called an urgent marine information broadcast,” Littlejohn said. “And what that does is it alerts any mariners that can hear this broadcast the location of a person in distress. And we indicate that we’re seeking assistance from anyone in the area that can help out.”
That broadcast got the attention of the F/V Misty, a charter boat belonging to Homer-based Driftwood Charters. The boat was about four miles away with seven people aboard.
When they reached Snedden, the crew of the Misty pulled him on board and brought him to a raft the trooper had rowed about 100 yards offshore. The raft brought Snedden to Anchor Point emergency medical services waiting onshore, and he was transported to South Peninsula Hospital in Homer.
“Undoubtedly, these folks saved a life by responding,” Littlejohn said. “They got there just before an Alaska State Trooper got there. And these folks were able to rescue this guy and get him to EMS, treated for symptoms of hypothermia that he was displaying.”
Littlejohn said river ice, like the piece that broke off in this case, is unsafe this time of year due to warming temperatures. Even though it’s early in the season to be experiencing breakup, he says conditions are currently ripe for melting ice.
“We’re just encouraging folks to stay off the ice,” Littlejohn said. “Ice on lakes may be perfectly safe in lots of places still. But we’re especially asking folks to be very mindful of sea ice and associated river ice.”
Troopers said Snedden is expected to fully recover.