Music Matters
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

After Selawik teen found on Friday, search for second missing Kotzebue snowmachiner heads into 7th day.

NWAB SAR Patch.jpg

The Northwest Arctic Borough Search and Rescue Team planned to set out at first light this morning to look for Thomas Brown, the second teenager, who left Kotzebue, a week ago Monday, on a snowmachine trip to Noorvik.

Brown was traveling with his companion, Josiah Ballot of Selawik. Both are 18.A private plane spotted Ballot’s snow machine on Friday afternoon about 28-miles South of Kotzebue near some GCI towers.

Walter Sampson, a longtime member of the search and rescue team, says Ballot was found a short time later, taking cover from a pressure ridge that had formed on the sea ice.

“The airplane landed close by and happened to be in the general area,” Sampson said. “They looked under chunks of ice and there he was.”

Sampson says the ridge of ice, which protected Ballot from winds and minus 50 windchills, probably saved his life. A trooper plane took Ballot directly to Kotzebue -- and from there, he was flown to Anchorage for treatment of hypothermia and severe frostbite.

Sampson says the cold weather has also been hard on ground teams.

“People coming in with frostbites on their faces, with cold hands and other problems. When they come back, that doesn’t stop them.” Sampson said. “That’s how the community shows love to the people they’re looking for.”

The Northwest Arctic Borough Search and Rescue team has about 40 volunteers. Community members have brought in a steady supply of cooked dishes for the team, prepared pocket-sized packets of snacks for the trail, and made breakfast every day. Some have shared warm clothing with crew members, while others have helped to maintain snow machines.

“It’s a search that everybody comes together to work together,” Sampson said. “We also have search teams out in Noorvik, Buckland, Selawik that are also working out of those villages.”

Samson says crews will continue looking as long as possible and will need help in the coming days with donations for fuel and other supplies.#####

Rhonda McBride has a long history of working in both television and radio in Alaska, going back to 1988, when she was news director at KYUK, the public radio and TV stations in Bethel, which broadcast in both the English and Yup’ik languages.