Ian Rodgers, 12/08/01, Kodiak, Fall, Hiking

U.S. Coast Guardsman killed in fall
KODIAK: Searchers find one trainee dead, rescue another after hike goes awry.

By Lucas Wall
Anchorage Daily News, December 11, 2001

A U.S. Coast Guard trainee died and another suffered injuries after they fell down a ravine while hiking Saturday at Pyramid Mountain near Kodiak.

Seaman apprentices Ian Rodgers, 21, of Monterey, Mass., and David Losh, 19, of Kuna, Idaho, left the Coast Guard station about 2 p.m. Saturday. They told a roommate they were going to hike up the 2,420-foot mountain about eight miles west of Kodiak. They planned to be back by 7 that evening, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Petty Officer Marshalena Delaney.

The roommate got worried when they didn't show up by 8 p.m. About that time, state trooper Richard Dykstra found Rodgers' car parked at a trail head chalet and became concerned because it was dark and snowing.

"They became disoriented trying to find the way back to the car," Delaney said. "They were standing on a ridge trying to get their bearings when a huge, massive gust of wind came along and knocked them down."

Losh fell at least 100 feet and Rodgers fell about 300 feet, she said.

A Coast Guard helicopter launched to search the mountain, but whiteout conditions prevented it from flying over the area. Troopers, Coast Guard personnel and volunteers began an unsuccessful all-night ground search using skis, snowmachines and dogs.

The helicopter took off again at 8:30 a.m. Sunday and spotted Losh about an hour and a half later. He suffered leg and back injuries and was in extreme pain, Delaney said, but had managed to climb up to a clearing. He had used tree limbs to spell out "help" in the snow. The crew hoisted Losh aboard, and he was taken to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.

Rodgers was spotted later, but the chopper crew couldn't land near him. Three rescuers were lowered to an area above him, and they climbed down a 150-foot drop-off using ropes. They found Rodgers dead.

Rodgers and Losh finished Coast Guard boot camp in August in New Jersey and were stationed aboard the Kodiak-based cutter Firebush. The cutter maintains maritime navigation aids around Kodiak Island.

The Firebush had returned to station Thursday after three weeks at sea. Delaney said commanders encourage their staff to enjoy the island's recreational opportunities but emphasize safety. Rodgers and Losh had purchased new gear Saturday morning before their hike.

"They try to instill in the folks to be cautious, to be careful, to be prepared," she said. "Just before pulling in this last time they'd had some awareness training -- that remember it's winter now, it's a little bit different, the weather is more severe."

Reporter Lucas Wall can be reached at lwall@adn.com or 907-257-4321.