Coast Guard rescues AP man, friends off Knight Island

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued an Anchor Point man and three other people last Friday after their boat capsized off Knight Island in Prince William Sound. Crew in a Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak found and hoisted to safety Roy Whiteside, 45, of Anchor Point, Uriah Rolando, 40, of Anchorage, Orin Rolando, 28, and Joel Balzer, 43, both city unknown. According to a Coast Guard press release, the four men were taken to Cordova with no medical concerns.

According to an Alaska State Trooper press release, at about 9:30 a.m. Nov. 18, troopers received notification that a SPOT beacon had been activated with coordinates near Knight Island. SPOT is a brand name for a satellite personal tracker that gives a person’s location to authorities in case of an emergency. The SPOT is registered to Whiteside. About the same time, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage received a satellite phone message from a mariner in the area who had received a distress call via VHF-FM radio channel 16. The distress call said a 28-foot Bayliner was taking on water in Marsha Bay on Knight Island. Watchstanders correlated the two distress calls and launched a rescue, including the Jayhawk, an HC-130 airplane and crew, and a 45-foot response boat from Coast Guard Station Valdez. The mariners launched a flare to help the Jayhawk crew find them.

“This is a perfect example of a worst-case scenario where the survivors were prepared and did everything right,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Taylor, an Anchorage watchstander. “Communication was extremely spotty in their location, but they used everything possible from VHF radio to flares to an emergency beacon. This, along with our crews’ fast response time, ultimately saved their lives.”

Because cell phone coverage along Alaska’s waterways is often unreliable, along with required signaling devices like flares, the Coast Guard advisers mariners to carry a VHF-FM marine radio, satellite telephone or emergency beacon.