A fishing trip went awry Saturday afternoon when a 32- year-old woman fell into the icy water at Connell Lake. Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad retrieved the woman and her two companions. They suffered nothing worse than mild hypothermia, and a punctured raft.
Corina Coggins was balanced on a log next to Connell Lake, casting her line, when she lost her footing and plunged into the frigid water. She was able to return to shore fairly quickly with help from her two companions, but they inadvertently punctured their inflatable raft.
With daylight fading and no boat, the three built a small fire and called for help. Alaska State Troopers reported that the emergency call came in at around 4 p.m. Saturday.
Jerry Kiffer of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad said KVRS sent a crew on foot down the trail that goes around the lake, and launched a skiff in case the victims were too far from the trail.
“They were a fair distance away from the end of the trail, so we elected to utilize the inflatable raft to bring the victims back across, and then delivered them to a North Tongass ambulance,” he said.
The approximately 2.5-mile trail goes around Connell Lake, then follows a creek that connects Connell to Talbot Lake. Kiffer said the three victims were on the far side of Connell, across the mouth of the creek.
He said they were right to call for help rather than walk out on the trail. All three — Coggins, a man and a young boy — had gotten wet and cold.
“Of course, when you’re out using rafts and fishing along the lake, staying completely dry is fairly impossible,” he said. “The victim who went into the water, of course she was completely wet. Her partner was wet in the effort of getting her out, and the male juvenile, he was wet just from being a kid and being out and playing at the lake.”
Kiffer suggested that anyone planning outdoor recreation trips borrow one of the KVRS SPOT locator beacons, which allow rescue personnel to pinpoint the location of someone in trouble. He said the trio was lucky to have had cell coverage at the lake, and a beacon would have been more reliable.
“This country is extremely unforgiving. A simple trip across the lake to do some fishing in the wintertime, it can be a lot more hazardous than a typical trip Down South, where you can get hold of emergency services anywhere,” he said.
Troopers report that all three victims were transported by North Tongass EMS to Ketchikan Medical Center for treatment of mild hypothermia.
For more information about KVRS, visit http://www.ketchikanrescue.org/index.htm