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Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, (907) 733-9103
TALKEETNA, AK: Six stranded flightseeing tourists and their pilot are reportedly in good health in the Ruth Amphitheater of Denali National Park and Preserve as they await flyable conditions for a return flight to Talkeetna. Deteriorating weather during a routine flightseeing trip on Tuesday evening, July 2 forced Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot John Nealon to make a temporary landing on the Ruth Glacier for the safety of his passengers.Into the night, snowfall and cloud cover continued to build, so the seven of them slept in the DeHavilland Beaver, which was supplied with basic emergency gear including sleeping bags, food, a stove, and a satellite phone.
First thing the next morning, Talkeetna Air Taxi owner Paul Roderick alerted Denali National Park rangers that the aircraft and its passengers, including three men and three women, remained stranded.Continued clouds and intermittent snowfall throughout the day on Wednesday, July 3 thwarted attempts by both a Talkeetna Air Taxi fixed wing plane and the NPS A-Star helicopter to reach the aircraft.
Bad weather persisted at the landing site on Thursday morning, July 4.In order to avoid an emergency situation, a ground team of four Denali National Park mountaineering rangers was flown via helicopter to the lower Ruth Gorge late Thursday morning.The team will travel up-glacier approximately 3.5 miles with food, tents, and warm clothing to re-supply the group in the event their stay is prolonged further. The NPS rangers will remain with the visitors until they can fly out.
According to Denali National Park South District Ranger John Leonard, "Fortunately for all involved, this is not an emergency situation thanks to the sound judgement of the pilot and the emergency preparedness of the air service.Instead of pushing through bad weather, Nealon made the difficult decision to land and face a night or two of discomfort.Gratefully, today we are conducting a re-supply mission instead of responding to an accident."