A 20-year-old man from Illinois drowned after becoming stuck in litter-rich silt while walking on mudflats in Alaska and rising tides submerged him in the water.
Zachary Porter was walking with friends along the flats when he got stuck in the mud on Sunday evening.
After failed attempts by friends to free him from the silt, authorities were called but rescue teams were also unable to free him in time.
He died about an hour later, but his body wasn’t found until the next morning, according to Alaska State Troopers.
Zachary Porter, 20, drowned after becoming stuck in litter-rich silt as he walked on mudflats in Alaska and was submerged in water. Pictured is a view of the Turnagain Arm in Alaska
On May 21, Porter and his friends were walking along the mudflats of Turnagain Arm near Hope, a small community of about 80 people. Pictured is a view of the small town
On May 21, Porter and his friends were walking along the mudflats of Turnagain Arm near Hope, a small community of about 80 people, an hour and a half drive from Anchorage.
The group was 50 to 100 feet from shore when Porter got stuck in the softened silt, Girdwood Fire Chief Michelle Weston. says Anchorage Daily News.
State Troopers said a friend of his called 911 immediately after he got stuck, around 5:45 p.m. When the first rescue teams arrived shortly after 6 p.m., Porter was waist deep in mud.
Girdwood fire crews and two air ambulances were called to help local responders at 6:13 p.m., Weston said, but when Girdwood crews arrived on the scene around 7 p.m., Porter was already underwater.
A man who tried to save Porter was airlifted to Anchorage hypothermic, soldiers said.
The fire department is about 47 miles from where Porter got stuck and Weston said it could take up to an hour to get there.
Weston says Alaska Public Media Mud rescues can take 10 to 30 minutes, so getting help quickly is crucial.
“There has to be a time threshold between when someone is stuck and when the crew arrives and arrives, and then for the crew to actually work to extricate the person,” she said. “And it’s a race, generally, against what the tide is doing.”
The Turnagain Arm is a 48-mile-long estuary carved out by glaciers traveling southeast from the Anchorage area that parallels a major highway that often takes tourists south of Anchorage.
At low tide, the estuary is known for its dangerous silt mudflats created by rocks pulverized by glaciers.
A 20-year-old man from Illinois drowned after becoming stuck in litter-rich silt while walking on mudflats in Alaska and rising tides submerged him in the water
Accidents on apartments are frequent. Earlier this month a man was rescued from the mudflats after a leg got stuck and he collapsed while fishing near the mouth of the Twentymile River.
It’s been about ten years since someone last died in the apartments.
In 2013, Army Captain Joseph Eros died while attempting to cross Fire Island back to Anchorage.
In 1988, newlyweds Adeana and Jay Dickison were dredging for gold on the east end of the arm when his ATV got stuck in the mud, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
She got stuck trying to get it out and drowned in the rising tide.
In 1978, an unnamed Air Force sergeant attempting to cross Turnagain Arm was swept away by the leading edge of the tide. His body was never found, the Anchorage newspaper reported.
“It’s big, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful and it’s overwhelming,” Kristy Peterson, administrator and EMT manager for the Hope-Sunrise Volunteer Fire Department, said of Alaska.
“But you have to remember that this is Mother Nature and she has no mercy for humanity,” she added.
Peterson, who answered the call, spoke with other members of Porter’s group but did not speak to him during the rescue attempt.
“When we respond, we respond with the greatest of good intentions and as mothers and fathers and uncles and brothers,” she said. “We are responding with as much passion and vigor as possible.”
“I’ve been in contact with all of my members, and they’re all heartbroken,” Peterson said. “It’s a difficult situation.”
At low tide, Turnagain Arm is known for mudflats that “can suck you in,” Peterson said. “Looks like it’s solid, but it’s not.”
When the tide rises, the silt gets wet from the bottom, loosens up and can create a vacuum if a person steps on it. Signs warn people of dangerous waters and mudflats.
“I really have to warn people not to play in the mud,” she said. ‘It’s dangerous.’
Peterson said they got the emergency call after Porter got into serious trouble and it takes time to mobilize. Another department – about an hour away – also responded.
Peterson urged people to call 911 as soon as possible.
“If you think there’s a problem, if you think there might even be a problem, call,” she said. “Because we can move resources, and we’d rather turn around and go home or it’s a disaster.”