First responders and others who helped rescue and recover victims of the May 13 mid-air floatplane collision in Ketchikan’s George Inlet area were honored Monday by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly.
Before reading a proclamation, Mayor David Landis said the tragic accident was a blow to the whole community, but it also showed ways the community is unified.
Six people died in the crash and 10 survived. The proclamation specifically names good Samaritans Chuck Hanas and Colleen Nesbit.
South Tongass Fire Chief Steve Rydeen accepted the proclamation, and told the assembly that Hanas is the reason there were survivors.
“The true hero is Chuck Hanas, who saved 10 lives that day,” Rydeen said.
He said it was difficult for all the responders. But, he said, everyone knew what to do because they had trained for it.
Also Monday, the assembly heard an update on the Alaska Marine Highway System from Robert Venables, executive director of Southeast Conference.
Venables said the amount the Legislature has budgeted for Alaska’s ferry system is better than what the governor had proposed. But, he said, it’s still half of last year’s funding level.
“At the same time: Similar overhead, same management style and MO, and half the money to try to ask for the same results,” he said. “It’s not a good forecast for service to our communities across the region.”
Venables said Southeast Conference and community leaders will continue working with state lawmakers on a solution for the state’s ferry system.
Southeast Conference has been working on a way to change the Alaska Marine Highway System’s management structure to provide more stability. The state recently hired Anchorage-based contractor Northern Economics to come up with other options for the ferry system. A first draft is expected in August.
Also Monday, the assembly unanimously approved a resolution allowing an easement for Ketchikan Public Utilities’ under-sea fiber-optic cable project.
KPU Telecommunications Division asked for a 30-foot-wide access and utility easement on borough-owned land in the Mountain Point area. The property is the site of a borough wastewater outfall.
KPU Telecom Manager Ed Cushing told the assembly that the under-sea cable will transition to land at that site.
“Our under-sea fiber cable, when it comes up out of the ocean, will be buried on that lot,” he said. “But we will have a 4-foot by 8-foot vault that will stick up out of the ground a little bit. But no fences, nothing that would restrict movement on the property.”
KPU’s fiber optic cable project will result in a 90-mile connection between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert. The project should provide additional bandwidth for KPU internet customers.
This report has been edited to correct a typo.