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Car Accident On Unalaska's Mount Ballyhoo Leaves 2 Students Dead

Berett Wilber/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 5/9/19 at 11:53 p.m.

Two high school students died in a car accident Thursday after the vehicle went down a ravine on the side of Unalaska's Mount Ballyhoo.

Interim Police Chief John Lucking said emergency responders located their bodies after several hours of staging search and rescue operations from both the top and base of the mountain's Ulakta Head. 

Now, Lucking said responders will work on recovering the bodies with help from the U.S. Coast Guard, which has sent a helicopter from Air Station Kodiak to assist.

A third high school student survived the accident. Lucking said that student, who was the driver, was able to get out of the car, hike back up the mountain, and request help.

The surviving student was taken to the clinic, where he was released without treatment.

Lucking declined to identify the students. While their families have been notified, he said he wanted time to speak with their classmates, many of whom were decorating for the prom Thursday evening, before he released their names.

He also declined to comment on the cause of the accident until later.

Meanwhile, the Unalaska City School District is preparing to support grieving students.

"School will be open on Friday, May 10," according to a statement released Thursday night by district officials. "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 district and the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA).

"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," read the statement. "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."

APIA is sending its own team of mental health professionals to the island to support local providers.

Lucking said Public Safety officials and community leaders will tell Unalaskans how they can reach those providers and access those services as soon as possible.

For now, Unalaskans can 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.

-- -- -- Updated 5/9/19 at 5:20 p.m. 

Emergency responders are trying to rescue two people on Unalaska's Mount Ballyhoo after a car was driven into a ravine off the Ulakta Head side of the mountain.

Three people were in the car when the incident happened Thursday afternoon, according to Interim Police Chief John Lucking.

Lucking said the driver was able to get out of the car, hike back up the mountain, and request help for the two passengers he said were still inside.

The status of those two people is unknown.

Lucking said the Department of Public Safety is staging rescue operations from both the top of the mountain and the base.

The U.S. Coast Guard is also sending a helicopter from Air Station Kodiak after Public Safety officials requested assistance.

The cause of the accident is still unclear.

Public Safety officials are asking Unalaskans to stay away from the area while the rescue is underway. The nearby roads and gun range have been closed until further notice. 

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

-- -- -- Original Story

Search-and-rescue operations are underway Thursday afternoon following an accident on or near Unalaska's Mount Ballyhoo.

"From what's being told, it was some kind of a car accident, involving what we believe to be three people," said Petty Officer John-Paul Rios of the U.S. Coast Guard.

While Rios did not know the status of those involved in the accident, its cause, or its exact location, he said the Unalaska Department of Public Safety has asked for the Coast Guard’s help.

"They've requested that we assist with a helicopter, and we have ordered the launch of the helicopter," he said.

That helicopter is being deployed from Air Station Kodiak.

Rios referred further questions to the Department of Public Safety, which is acting as lead responder for the accident.

While Public Safety officials have not returned KUCB's requests for comment, the department sent a public advisory alert to the community around 2 p.m.

"Aleutian Rod and Gun Club Range is closed until further notice," said the alert distributed through the nixle system for text messages and emails.

The gun range is located at the base of Mount Ballyhoo.

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

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.