Peninsula Reflections

Posted: Monday, February 04, 2008

 

  This is a picture of Governor Hammond and George Jackinsky at the award ceremony in 1978. You will notice the lapel pin, that came with the medal and George occasionally wears it. Of course, few people know its significance. Brent Johnson Photo courtesy of the Jackinsky

This is a picture of Governor Hammond and George Jackinsky at the award ceremony in 1978. You will notice the lapel pin, that came with the medal and George occasionally wears it. Of course, few people know its significance. Brent Johnson

Photo courtesy of the Jackinsky

On Aug. 5, 1977, John Nepple was landing his twin engine Beech Bonanza, licensed with Butler Aviation, at the Kasilof Airport. Earlier he and Kearlee Wright, 18, had flown to Tyonek to pick up salmon. Wright was along to learn to fly. The salmon were bound for Per Osmar's Icy Seas processing plant in Kasilof. The flight was coming in to Kasilof about 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, George Jackinsky had been out with his drift gillnetter the Willawaw. He had unloaded his catch and had just got home. His daughter, Lisa, who had graduated from high school that spring, was heading to work at another processing plant. Her brother, Jon, 16, was giving her a ride. They pulled on to Kalifornsky Beach Road at dusk. Simultaneously, Nepple came down, but he had misjudged the unlit runway and come in long. They hit hard, then goosed the throttle and pulled up the nose, planning to go around for another try. Somewhere in this jarring maneuver, the wax-coated boxes of salmon slid back. They got airborne and raised the landing gear, but there was no way Nepple could get the tail up. The engines roared trying to claw into the sky.

The noise and lights of the plane attracted Jon and Lisa's attention. Before their eyes the plane went spinning into the trees. Jon turned around and raced back in their driveway. A fire had ignited and Lisa jumped out and ran toward it, ordering Jon, who sported a cast on one foot to "Go get Dad!"

Lisa ran through the woods to the plane, which faced her. The scene was lit by a bath of flames around the right side of the plane and a burning tree, but void of human activity. She yelled, but the only answer was the crackling of burning wood. And then she heard a groan.

Moments later George came running with Jon hobbling behind. George tried to open the cargo door, which was jammed. He yanked with all his might and the door, amazingly, came off in his hands, the hinges torn loose. "Go call the police," he shouted to Jon.

George crawled over the rubble of fish and boxes, which had slid forward on impact, leaving no room to stand. Wright reached out for help and George unbuckled him, grabbed his hand, and dragged him to safety. Wright's face was covered with blood and he lay, incoherently thrashing about.

Lisa held him and said reassuringly, "You're going to be OK"

By now the situation had eroded. Flames were finding more fuel, and the pilot could be seen, jerking his head back and forth.

George said, "I can't go back in there, Lisa."

In the next instant he did anyway. George whispered scriptures and threw boxes of slimy salmon out of the way. When he got Nepple to the doorway, Lisa helped drag him to safety. A few moments later an oxygen bottle exploded and shot into the air.

Nepple ended up paralyzed from the waist down. Wright recovered and went on to become a pilot, flying commercially for 27 years without an accident.

Governor Hammond presented George with a state of Alaska Award for Bravery and Heroism.

This article was written by Brent Johnson with the Kasilof Historical Society. Source "The Night My Father Saved Two Lives" by Lisa Jackinsky (undated), a Jan. 31 telephone conservation with Kearlee Wright and Per Osmar, interviews with George Jackinsky, and "Alaska's Heroes", chapter, "Return from Death" by Nancy Ferrell.



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