Rafting Deaths in Alaska Highlight Emergency Response Issues

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Rafting Excursion Ends in Fatalities on the Kongakut River

The recent deaths of two women during a rafting excursion illustrate not only how unpredictably dangerous Alaska’s wilderness can be, but also how limited resources are in the nation’s largest state.

The women’s families are questioning why it took so long for help to arrive, but one official notes the nearest rescuers had to travel hundreds of miles and deal with all the logistics that go with it.

In Alaska, the harsh reality is that people are literally on their own when they veer away from the limited road system of the state, which is more than two-and-a-half times the size of Texas but with a population equal to the metro area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Unfortunately, we do not have rescue assets within close proximity of every region in our state, and sometimes capability, proper resources, and timeliness in response to an incident is not immediately available,” Alaska National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead said in an email to The Associated Press.

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