With early morning settling in on the bright blue waters of the Kenai River, Andy Foor was prepared for a long morning of fishing when he heard screaming.
The Everett, Pennsylvania resident, who is visiting Alaska for the summer, was angling off the dock just downstream of the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday when he saw two women walking along the bank of the river. He said he didn’t think much of it at the time, but “then I heard someone hollering,” he said.
One of the women had seemingly slipped into the water. At first she went under and didn’t come back up for about 15 seconds, Foor said. At that point, he didn’t think she’d come back up at all, he said.
When she did, all he could see was the top of her blonde hair. She wasn’t wearing a life vest, and she was yelling, “I can’t swim — I’m drowning!” he said.
“We were all just standing there helpless,” Foor said.
She fell in just upstream of the bridge and was far enough out in the river that no one could reach her. Other anglers on the dock were standing there dumbfounded, unsure of what to do. Foor said he thought about swimming out to her but knew he wouldn’t be able to help her.
So he looked down at his fishing pole.
“I just said a prayer, and a voice said, ‘Throw your line out into the water,’” Foor said. “I hollered to the girl so that I’d get her attention, and I cast.”
He had a 50-pound braided line with a hook and a sinker. He said he considered taking the hook and weight off, but the same voice that told him to cast said it would be alright, he said.
The line reached her and she latched on, and he swung her back toward the dock downstream of where he stood. Another angler went down the steps to help her up onto the dock, where others were able to help her dry off and warm up. Foor pulled in his gear and wandered down to see if she was alright, he said.
“She was saying, ‘Where’s the man who threw me the line? Where’s the man who threw me the line?’” Foor said. “And I just stepped down and said, ‘The Father loves you, and he’s right here.’”
She came straight to him and hugged him, he said.
Foor, a pastor in Everett, said others thought she might have died had he not been able to throw her the line. He said he wanted all the credit to go to God for the rescue.
Alaska State Troopers interviewed the woman after the anglers were able to pull her to safety, but she was able to walk away, Foor said.
The Kenai River is a fast-flowing, cold river. Many people recreate on and near it, and there is a death or near-death almost every year in the river. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation advises dressing appropriately and helping those in trouble. The Alaska Office of Boating Safety also offers presentations describing cold-water immersion and ways to increase a person’s chance to survival in that situation.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.