National Guard crews rescue man stranded overnight on bluff

A Homer man survived a night about 200 feet up a 300-foot tall bluff near the Baycrest Hill turnout before being rescued last Thursday. 

About 2:40 p.m. Aug. 27, Alaska Air National Guard helicopter crews, pararescuemen and combat rescue officers with the 210th and 212th squadrons hoisted Eli Garvey, 23, off the bluff using an HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter. The helicopter took Garvey to the Homer Airport where he declined treatment, said Homer Volunteer Fire Department firefighter-EMT Dan Miotke. Garvey did not have any injuries or hypothermia.

Garvey’s ordeal began about 10 p.m. Wednesday night when he tried to climb the bluff after walking about 5 miles on the beach west of Bishop’s Beach. Miotke said it was getting dark and Garvey was trying to head up the bluff to get to the Sterling Highway.

“He probably couldn’t see where he was very well and got in a tough spot,” Miotke said. “He was pretty terrified spending all night there.”

A man walking by on the beach saw Garvey up on the bluff about 11:30 a.m. and called the fire department. About the same time, Garvey’s friends reporting him missing, said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl. HVFD rescuers responded and lowered a rope down to Garvey to help keep him secure.

Crews responded from on the beach and above. Garvey was stuck in a place difficult to rescue him from either spot, Miotke said. HVFD doesn’t have a high-angle rope team and has minimal rescue equipment.

Because of the difficulty in rescuing Garvey, HVFD officials contacted the Alaska State Troopers for a helicopter rescue. Troopers in turn contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, and the Alaska Air National Guard responded. Miotke said a firefighter had climbing experience and was prepared to rescue Garvey if the Air National Guard couldn’t fly.

“Resources were available. They were happy to come down and we utilized them,” Miotke said.

Funding for rescues comes out of the Air National Guard’s training budget, said Sgt. N. Alicia Hall, a spokesperson for the guard.

Miotke said he didn’t think Garvey was in danger of getting pinched by the tides on Wednesday night. The incoming high tide at 12:51 a.m. Aug. 27 was a 17.8 foot tide, about the same tide at 1:56 p.m. Aug. 28 when Miotke was on the beach, he said.