Gold miner rescued after skiff flips in rough surf
By Diana Haecker
The Nome Volunteer Fire Department Search and Rescue volunteers were toned out on Tuesday afternoon to respond to a flipped skiff that was in the process to pull an excavator platform gold dredge owned by NOGC to the harbor. The NVFD volunteers were on standby as the mining crew performed a self-rescue and NVFD Chief Jim West Jr. monitored the situation at East Beach.
Windy weather and rough seas caused the offshore miners to seek shelter at the harbor instead of jacking the platform up on its spuds.
They made it as far as East Beach when the skiff War Pony was yanked by the tow rope, took on water and flipped over, according to West. He said that only one person, John Keeley, was on board, piloting the War Pony. “The rope had sort of a recoil effect and overturned the boat,” he said. The rest of the crew was on the platform barge that was being towed. When the War Pony overturned, Keeley ended up in the cold waters of Norton Sound. According to West, he was plucked out of the water by a second support vessel and taken to the platform barge.
As crowds and NPD officers were gathering on the beach and lining the Nome-Council Highway to watch, a second boat, came rushing from the harbor to help. According to West, it was fellow gold miner Shawn Pomrenke who tried to assist in pulling the upside-down War Pony to safety. In the meantime, the crew on board the platform gold dredge put the spuds down and jacked the platform up so that it is out of the pounding surf.
The second boat could not pull the overturned boat to safety and as of press time, it is still bobbing in the surf near East Beach.
The crew and John Keeley were taken from the platform gold dredge to the small boat harbor. “He was shook up and cold, but he’s alright,” Jim West said.
According to Harbormaster Lucas Stotts, the incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard.