Rescuers fish Kenai dipnetters from Cook Inlet

Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Three Kenai River dipnetters nearly became driftnetters over the weekend, except for the fact they all lost their nets as river currents took the two men and a boy out to sea.

All three males were safely rescued in the two separate incidents that occurred Friday and Saturday.

Kenai police received a report at 7:44 p.m. Friday that a dipnetter was floating out to sea near the north beach and responded along with Kenai Fire Department rescuers.

The dipnetter, identified by Fire Chief Mike Tilly as a 23-year-old male from Homer, already had been plucked from Cook Inlet by a returning commercial fishing vessel.

Tilly said the man was wearing a wetsuit and life preserver and told medics he was cold and scared, but otherwise in good condition.

The following morning, at 7:51, Kenai police received a report of two people in the Kenai River being taken out into the inlet.

Using a city utility boat always at the ready near the Kenai City Dock, Kenai firefighters Tommy Carver and Greg Coon and Engineer John Wichman managed to rescue a father and son who had been washed out "a significant ways past the mouth of the river," Tilly said.

The 44-year-old Greens Creek man and his 13-year-old son were wearing wetsuits, but no life jackets, Tilly said.

"Because the wetsuits are usually black, if people are not wearing bright orange (personal flotation devices), it's really hard to see them from the water.

"What we try to do — and did in this case — is have spotters up above at Spruce Street who call the swimmers' location to rescuers," Tilly said.

He said an unusually high tide was receding at the time, causing a riptide effect the two dipnetters were struggling to swim against as they tried to reach the south beach of the river.

They were in good condition when picked up by the firefighters.

Tilly said the fire department receives at least one call a year of a dipnetter being washed out to sea.

Last year, a dipnetter died as he was being carried out at the mouth of the Kenai River.



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