Kuskokwak search suspended by BSAR

Day 45, 01-24-2015 was the last day of searching by BSAR for Stone on the Kuskokwak Slough. Everyone was exhausted, mentally and physically after a long stretch of laborious effort by so many from Bethel, Kwethluk, Akiak, Akiachak, Tuluksak, Napaskiak, Nunapitchuk and Atmautluak. Many thousands of pounds of ice, large and small blocks cut out and dragged away from the site. Over a hundred auger holes, several hundred feet of trenches dug in various weather conditions including, rain, snow, sunshine and temperatures fluctuating from -45 wind chills to 45 above zero.

Crossmon checking connections in the frigid cold


We are extremely grateful to all that assisted at the BSAR building,  to Bob and Shirley Samuelson, Ivy Riley, Olga Riley and many others who provided a hot meal for returning BSAR volunteers. And for the others who couldn’t help at the site, but helped keep the chain saws and augers sharpened and and other equipment running. “Thank you” to the A.C. Company who donated food and beverages, AVCP Inc. for gasoline, Calista Corporation and Bud & Marge Revet for a monetary donations. And finally Akiak for gasoline. If we missed anyone who donated for this effort, it was not intentional. This was a busy time.

Currently we have begun the process of partnering with local Bethel entities to assist us in acquiring our own ROV or Remote Operated Vehicle for service in the Y-K Delta. BSAR had learned valuable lessons from both Keith Cormican and Tom Crossmon the value of current technology which can greatly reduce the time and labor spent in body recovery efforts. And have decided that the apparatus most appropriate for the type of recovery missions we are involved in would be the VideoRay Pro 4, a submersible with multi-beam sonar and color video camera capabilities.  We also realized that if we had the VideoRay, the recovery effort for both Evan and Stone could have been successful within the first week of their tragedy. Our goal with the VideoRay, when received is to support recovery efforts in the entire Y-K Delta. See link below for more information.


We are asking all Search and Rescue groups, Tribal entities, Native Corporations, City governments and Public Safety organizations in the Y-K Delta to assist us with our goal by writing letters of support. We will be approaching our Senators and Representatives to help fund this important tool for our people.

If you are willing to donate money for the VideoRay, you can click on our donation link on our BSAR page or you can mail it to us.

Please send them to: BSAR President Mike Riley Box 2633, Bethel, AK 99559 or you can fax them to 543-4357. You can also email support letters to: mikeoriley@hotmail or bethelbarr@yahoo.com

BSAR also honored Tom Crossmon during his last evening in Bethel and was provided with a BSAR picture signed by all members of his “crew”, a pair of hand beaded gloves by Olga Riley, a BSAR ball cap, BSAR jacket and a baleen State of Alaska figure with the BSAR engraved with the BSAR logo on ivory mounted on caribou horn hand made by Christian Samuelson.



Search for Stone continues

Day 44….calmer winds but cooler temperatures of -14 did not hinder efforts today. BSAR members met early this morning at BSAR headquarters with plans to go forth and hopefully find. Excited still because of at the recovery of Evan two days ago. The Pro 4 VideoRay ROV spent hours today operated by Crossmon underneath ice searching for Sally Stone in many directions at the mouth of the Kisaralik River off of the Kuskokwak slough and below where Evan was recovered. Lots of area was covered in 160 foot distances down the slough and with the 260 foot tether attached to the ROV and an additional 60 feet of sonar search, many areas were looked at more than once. The Blueview sonar sweeps an area 130 degrees in width and 20 degrees in height making searching efficient for both the bottom of the riverbed and while returning to the ice hole, below the ice.


We also had invited elder Eddie Noratak of Akiachak to assist in possible search locations as he was instrumental in pointing out the general area where Evan was located and the way the Kuskokwak slough behaves. We at BSAR appreciate his knowledge and wisdom. We also had elder Henry Tikiun of Atmautluak assist us with his traditional knowledge and advice. We always have a willing ear for direction from our treasured elders.

Later after arriving back at BSAR headquarters at the end of the day, without locating Stone, we met with the family of Evan who expressed gratitude and happiness of his recovery. We all hugged and cried with the family and accepted their thankfulness. But this is what we do for them. Something that we hope in the future if anything happens to us personally, we can be brought home too and to do God’s work. Also during this time, we all hoped and prayed that in the future,  we can deliver this message to everyone lost in our area. To bring everyone home…..


We at BSAR are asking now for support letters from the entire Y-K Delta with our 56 villages and other entities interested elsewhere to ask the State of Alaska to provide funds for the Pro 4 VideoRay for search and recovery efforts in our area. We believe this apparatus is the best “Up to date” tool that will assist us in recovering our loved ones in a timely manner. We have been utilizing drag bars and cutting trenches in the ice to recover people for many years which has been labor intensive and takes many days and many people to accomplish. We need the technology to assist us in providing faster recovery and discovery of our loved ones to bring them back home. If we had this technology and apparatus at the beginning of this search, we would have accomplished this already. If you are willing to provide a “letter of support” to BSAR receiving the Pro 4 VideoRay, please mail to our address or fax to our phone number in Bethel. IMG_5253

We will be searching tomorrow with Crossmon and his ROV for the majority of the day….But he will be leaving Saturday evening, back home to Minnesota, where he has been missed. But we understand that his loving family will be glad to have him back home and we thank them for allowing him to come and help us in our efforts.

Day 43 – Search continues

Day 43 began with cold temperatures about -40 with the wind chill and renewed determination to find and recover Sally Stone after the recovery of Evan. Crossmon with his ROV and multi-beam sonar and video camera searched several areas downriver of where Evan was recovered, sweeping over 300 feet in every direction of the compass from one large hole in the ice. Every so often, Tom would become excited and then frustrated when thick wood debris would come into view when wanting to search closer, and afraid of getting his ROV stuck. But a piece of dry smoked salmon would calm him down and a smile would appear on his face, thankful for the friendship he has developed with the people that come to search and help him everyday. And the search members who have not not given up hope…..


We at BSAR would like to THANK Upper Kalskag Native Community who donated a 55 gallon drum of gas to assist in the recovery effort. Thank you for helping……



As a side note: The funeral for Andrew Andrew in Kwethluk is scheduled for Friday whom BSAR helped to find near the Kwethluk airport and a memorial service in Atmautluak for Sally Stone is scheduled for Saturday.


Search members cutting holes in the ice

We will be searching for Stone on Friday, the 23rd along with Akiachak and Atmautluak SAR teams.

Success on Day 42 – Kuskokwak Search

Bethel Search and Rescue with assistance from Tom Crossmon is pleased to announce the recovery of a person believed to be George Evan today at about 2:55 p.m. Evan was found about 46 feet underwater on the riverbed and under the ice about a quarter mile on the Kuskokwak Slough below where Demantle was located. Evan was located by utilizing a VideoRay Pro 4 Remote Operated Vehicle or ROV owned and operated by Crossmon of Duluth, Minnesota who had graciously volunteered his time and efforts for this recovery.



For more information about Crossmon and his ROV, click on link below.


The ROV with sonar and video camera capabilities located Evan yesterday evening but was unable to attach itself to Evan so he can be brought to the surface. Since we all were working in the darkness and the ROV battling trees, stumps, willows and other debris underneath, the decision was made to wait until the next day.


The search and recovery effort had continued by BSAR, Akiachak, Tuluksak, Atmautluak and Kwethluk SAR groups since day one with many volunteers making new trenches, holes and pulling many thousands of pounds of ice out everyday. Many hours volunteered by members who asked for time off from jobs, others who spent time away from families, a fierce determination to bring loved ones home. We are also encouraged by the elders who have come to provide guidance every day.

We will continue search and recovery efforts for Sally Stone tomorrow with assistance from Crossmon who is expected to leave Bethel Saturday morning. We are also extremely grateful for donations from Bentleys Bed and Breakfast, Old Mission House and the U.S Fish and Wildlife service who provided lodging for Crossmon while he is staying in Bethel.


Kuskokwim 300 advisory for race start

Bethel Search and Rescue advisory…..

BSAR and the K300 Race committee are advising all vehicles to stay off the river in front of Bethel during the K300 / Bogus 150 / Akiak Dash dog races this weekend. Normally vehicles would be able to park along side the starting chute, but the river ice is about 36 inches thick in the area and will not be able to sustain the weight of the all of the trucks and cars. The K300 will have about three official vehicles assisting with the races being utilized for the vets and other duties.  Please be mindful of parking in the area and comply with Race Official directions. (See below advisory from K300)

Thank You….

K300 Restricting Vehicle Parking on Kuskokwim River for Race Activities

  • Due to the thickness and condition of the river ice, the K300 Race Committee is restricting vehicles from parking on the Kuskokwim River to watch any K300 events this weekend. Spectators are advised to park along Front Street, the small boat harbor or the surrounding vicinity and walk down to the ice to participate in the festivities. Only dog trucks assisting K300 race teams and official vehicles will be allowed to park on the ice.

    If you have any questions regarding this change, please contact Race Manager Zach Fansler at 907.545.3300.

Day 26



The search continues with volunteers again finding small clues with the video camera and small pieces of organic material pulled from the riverbed. Even with the biting cold wind, rain and sleet coming down periodically, efforts have not waned. Tired faces and bodies trying everyday for the last 26 days is exhausting and still a fierce determination exists in the minds of everyone that show up.


More ice trenches are dug with chain saws and ice augers in new areas not already checked, widening the area of interest.

Sometimes the older volunteers will talk of frustration at the younger people that show up at the site. Who despite their youth,   show more of an interest in the new technology then laboring to pull the ropes attached to the drag bars underneath. Still… no one is scolded, not a word is said to the kids who are bending their heads over the video monitor. They all know that if they scold or “nunuq” them, they might be hesitant to help again.


Photos from 01-01-15


Today ended with the usual prayer of thanksgiving and hope. Efforts will continue tomorrow as they have for the last 26 days. We all wish for other volunteers to come to the site and help with the efforts. The weather is expected to be wetter the next few days, so if you decide to come, please wear rain gear and warm clothing. And be careful when traveling as there is an open spot in the ice in the Kuskokwak slough above Wassilie Alexie’s camp. The rain and sleet will also cause very slick roads, so when rounding corners on the river, slow down….. and be extra cautious as many people will be traveling, visiting family and friends during the Slaviq celebration.