Snowmachine breaks through ice, Bethel SAR advises no river travel

by Ben Matheson on December 6, 2013

A snowmachine with two people went through the ice this morning crossing the river near Bethel. Search and Rescue chief Mike Riley says the situation fortunately turned out safely.

“The party that was on the snowmachine are ok, but the snowmachine did go through the ice,” said Riley. “That tells you that the ice is deteriorating from the bottom up… and from any existing holes that areout there. I would advise people to not be on the river.”

A recent survey revealed several holes. Among them are a hole right across from Bethel on the left hand side of island. Riley says all of straight slough should not be used. There are big holes on both ends. There are couple holes between Straight slough and Schwalbee island that Riley expects to expand. There’s also big holes at the mouth of the Gweek. SAR reports another open hole on the main river going in the direction of Kwethelek. Again, Riley is advising NO TRAVEL on the river.

“Holes are getting bigger, there are a lot of top layers of water where you can’t distinguish if it’s top water or an open hole, because of the darkness of the ice and the water blending together,” said Riley.

SAR teams did a survey on the river yesterday, but conditions may not allow further assessments this weekend. They may be able to get up for an air survey. Riley is asking pilots to report any dangerous conditions to call Bethel SAR at 545-4357.

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