Having Recovered Renteria Haist's Body, Responders Focus Efforts On McDonald

May 10, 2019

Responders are still trying to recover the body of Karly McDonald, 16. The body of Kiara Renteria Haist, 18, was recovered Friday around 2 p.m.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

Note: APIA's behavioral health staff is in Unalaska to support grieving students, families, and community members. This weekend, you can reach providers by calling 359-2743. They're available over the phone, or they'll provide information on how you can make a face-to-face appointment. You can also find more information here

Updated 5/10/19 at 3:07 p.m.

Responders have recovered the body of Kiara Renteria Haist, 18, one of two high school students killed Thursday in a car accident on Unalaska's Mount Ballyhoo.

"Just about an hour ago, we recovered her," said Interim Police Chief John Lucking just before 3 p.m. on Friday. "We're maneuvering now to get the team in to try to get to Karly and get her out of there."

Lucking said he expected efforts to recover the body of Karly McDonald, 16, to take "a couple hours" more.

According to police, both teenagers' bodies were located on the shoreline after a pickup truck "tumbled approximately 900 feet down" from the Ulakta Head side of the mountain.

"We're looking for the best path to get in there," said Lucking. "It's big boulders and kelp and a little bit of swell, so it's a very big challenge to get in there."

Lucking said members of a mountain rescue unit started rappelling down the mountain around 11 a.m.

The unit was brought by the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Kodiak, which spent the night planning their descent by sending a C-130 aircraft to assess the terrain and the location of the bodies with aerial imaging.

-- -- -- Original Story

Unalaska Police have identified the two high school students who died Thursday in a car accident on Mount Ballyhoo.

Passengers Karly McDonald, 16, and Kiara Renteria Haist, 18, died when a pickup truck "left the roadway [in the area of Ulakta Head] and tumbled approximately 900 feet down to the shoreline below," according to a statement by the Department of Public Safety.

Police are now investigating the cause of the crash, which happened around 1:30 p.m., and working to recover their bodies. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter sent to help Thursday night wasn't able to do so, but police said they expected to finish recovery efforts Friday.

High school student Dustin Ruckman, 18, survived the accident. Police said he was driving and "lost control of the vehicle."

"Ruckman claimed to have been thrown from the vehicle as it descended down a steep ravine with the two girls still inside," said the statement. "Ruckman reported that he was able to climb back to the road and ran down the east side of the mountain, where he flagged down a passing motorist, who called 911."

Police said the emergency response was difficult due to the truck's "widespread wreckage" and "the rough and extremely steep terrain."

"Harbor officers approached the scene from the water and had a challenge landing searchers because of the lack of suitable shoreline," said the statement. "Responders searched the ravine at great personal risk from above and below for a long while looking for McDonald and Renteria Haist, before finding their bodies some distance apart where each had been thrown as the truck broke into pieces on its way down the mountain."

Both teenagers were declared dead around 5 p.m.

While their families were notified Thursday, Interim Police Chief John Lucking delayed releasing their names publicly until Friday morning. Lucking said he wanted time to speak with their classmates who were decorating for prom Thursday evening at Unalaska's high school.

All lifelong residents of Unalaska, McDonald was a junior, Renteria Haist was a senior, and Ruckman is a senior.

School is open Friday, and school district officials said they're prepared to support grieving students.

"The Unalaska City School District has mobilized a grief counseling team made up of adult volunteers and counseling professionals trained to help with the needs of students and school personnel at difficult times such as this," according to a statement released Thursday night.

"These adults will be available any time a student may need or want help or assistance resulting from this loss. We encourage you, as parents and community members, to also feel free to use our resources," the statement continued. "However, if you feel your student needs to stay home, they will be excused from classes. If you do choose to keep your student home on Friday, please call the school so we know they are safe at home."

Counseling resources for students, families, and other community members are also being arranged by the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) and Unalaskans Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence (USAFV).

USAFV staff are already at the school, and three of APIA's providers are en route to Unalaska on the midday flight from Anchorage.

"We are discussing additional staff support to be in Unalaska throughout the week," said APIA's Tara Ford in an email. "My heart goes out to the families and the community as a whole."

Unalaskans can also contact APIA's behavioral health staff at 907-581-2751 or 1-844-375-2742.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

In a statement by the Unalaska Department of Public Safety, the two students were identified as Karly MacDonald and Kiara Renteria, who was identified as 17. KUCB has confirmed their names are Karly McDonald and Kiara Renteria Haist, who was 18. The story above has been updated with the correct information.

This story also previously stated the mountain rescue unit was sent by the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Kodiak. In fact, Kodiak Island Search and Rescue (KISAR) is a nonprofit volunteer organization that was dispatched by the Alaska State Troopers and transported to Unalaska by the Coast Guard. The story has been updated with the correct information.