A four-person hunting party was safe Wednesday, according to Alaska Army National Guard officials, after most of its members crashed through Yukon River ice during a trip to Mountain Village.

The incident, involving a total of four snowmachiners, took place about seven miles west of Mountain Village according to a Guard statement. Alaska State Troopers requested a search-and-rescue mission at about 2:30 a.m. from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Rescue Coordination Center, which dispatched a 207th Aviation Battalion UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew stationed in Bethel.

“There were four hunters who were traveling in a group, each on a snowmachine, over the Yukon River,” Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Cody Bjorklund, the helicopter’s command pilot, said in the statement. “Three of them went through the ice and two of them lost their snowmachines,” he said.

After the snowmachiners got out of the water, they made their way to a sandbar on the river.

“Two of them were stranded, cold and wet, and due to the soft areas of ice, could not ride out as a passenger on one of the other snowmachines,” Guard officials wrote.

According to Alaska National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, one of the hunters rode his snowmachine from the scene to get help. With one snowmachine and three people remaining at the sandbar, the fourth hunter helped the others.

“He started a fire going and stayed with the other two,” Olmstead said.

The Black Hawk crew was able to quickly find the remaining hunters due to the fire. Two of them were picked up and flown to Mountain Village, arriving at about 5 a.m., after the remaining hunter declined transport to finish getting his snowmachine across the river.

“He was going to wait until daylight and go back himself,” Olmstead said.

Several people across the state have recently lost their lives in similar incidents, including three Noatak residents who died near the Northwest Alaska village in April after their snowmachines went through ice.

In response, Alaska State Troopers along with volunteer group Bethel Search and Rescue have urged travelers to stay off frozen lakes and rivers this season. Members of the Alaska Dive Search and Recovery Team recently shared a series of tips on how to survive if you fall through thin ice.

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