BETHEL, Alaska — Searchers in western Alaska have indefinitely postponed their effort to find seven missing seal hunters.
Quinhagak Tribal Police Chief John Peter said he put the search on hold last Saturday for the missing and the boat they were traveling on, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday.
“Due to the cold, dropping temperatures we have to stop the search until the weather cooperates with us,” said Peter, who has coordinated the search.
The National Weather Service forecast a blizzard for last Tuesday, with snow covering the ground and ice starting to form.
“I’m not even sure we’d be able to send out boats because of the ice that’s on the mouth of our river,” Peter said.
The search could resume if temperatures increase and ice breaks, he said. If that doesn't happen, the search won't start again until spring.
“I wish we could search some more,” Peter said. “But with this weather, I don’t want to risk anybody’s life to search.”
Peter said the 22-foot (6.7-meter) aluminum boat with three men left the village of Quinhagak Oct. 17 and then picked up four more people in the community of Bethel. The group was last seen Oct. 20 on Eek Island, the closest community to Quinhagak.
The boat could have capsized, Peter said.
Alaska State Troopers and the U.S. Coast Guard searched Nunivak Island and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta coast for four days before calling off their search Oct. 27.
Officials have identified the missing as Chad Chadwick Sr., Neal Gutleben, Alexie Nose Jr., Michael Sharp, Elizabeth Wassillie, Willie Wassillie and Bernice Waska.