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Local SAR Successfully Rescues Snowmachiners Stranded in Golovin Bay

Aerial image of dark blue water, a field of ice chunks, and a small vessel involved in search-and-rescue efforts.

Water overflow from the Norton Sound caught and stranded three people in Golovin Bay in the very early hours of Monday morning.

White Mountain Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) Dan Harrelson confirms that local search and rescue teams from White Mountain and Golovin successfully rescued 29- year-old Joseph Fagundes, 27- year-old Stephanie Fahey, and 23 year-old Adrian Barr Jr at around 8am Monday morning. All three riders are from White Mountain.

The three individuals were riding two snowmachines back to White Mountain from Golovin around 1am Monday when they fell through overflow crossing the Bay. Barr was able to call for help on his cell phone. Rescuers responded to find the three riders standing on their machines to keep out of the water. Fagundes went through weak ice slightly closer to the shore and was recovered by boat. Due to ice conditions, searchers could not safely reach Fahey and Barr by boat. At around 8am Monday, locals managed to rescue the snowmachiners using a canoe.

Harrelson says Alaska State Troopers at the Nome Post were alerted and aware of the situation and ready to respond by helicopter but due to weather would not have been able to dispatch for another several hours. Harrelson does not think the three riders would have lasted that long.

Harrelson warns that ice on the Golovin Bay isn’t entirely stable right now, despite the cold conditions.

“We’ve had some strong south winds that blow water into Golovin Bay, and although the winter trail looks good, its staked; there’s about one inch of young ice over overflow. We’d recommend using the one on the beach trail, which is also staked. But use extreme caution, maybe not to travel at night because the danger is there with thin ice and overflow.”

Ice on the Golovin Bay is normally thinner than it is further south on the Norton Sound, according to Rick Thoman, a climatologist with UAF. Although, Thoman says this year is better than 2019, with such thin ice it’s easy for water to get squeezed through those cracks.

The three rescued individuals are being treated for frostbite and hypothermia. VPSO Harrelson says staff at the White Mountain clinic worked quickly to stabilize the snowmachiners before they could be medevac’ed to Nome around noon Monday.

Harrelson says Barr’s body temperature was dangerously low and Fahey showed signs of frostbite.

Image at top: A drone image from above the icy Golovin Bay. Photo courtesy of searcher Dennis Davis of Shishmaref in 2019.

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