Mudflat Safety: Techniques That Could Save Your Life

The Turnagain Arm area has been called a playground with 180 miles of turbulent tides and lots of mud, but fire officials say the combination can lead to tragedy.

In 1988, newlywed Adeana Dickison lost her life after getting stuck in the silt on Turnagain Arm and drowning. More recently on June 28, an Army Captain Joseph Hugh Eros, 42, died when he tried to walk back to Kincaid Park from Fire Island, getting swept away by rising tides. Fire crews say they have nearly a dozen rescues during the summer season every year.

Fire officials have water and air powered rescue tools that can loosen mud by pumping extra fluid to displace the space surrounding the victim. While these methods have been effective, fire officials say they do take time, and caution that self-rescue will always be the best solution.

“Just try to sit back on the ground,” said Jerry Kempton, Girdwood Fire Department.  “You just kind of want to lightly kick your feet.  Lay back, put some leverage on your feet, put your hands out beside you, make sure and not let them get stuck and just slowly kick your feet towards the surface.”

New rescue techniques have been developed in the nearly 25 years since the Turnagain Arm tragedy, but the race against time remains the same.

"From the time that somebody gets in trouble ideally they should be calling before something bad happens,” said Chris Carson, Girdwood Fire Department.  “As soon as they think they're going to be in trouble, that's the time to call."

Contact Blake Essig