• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 15s

Father, infant medevacs draw attention to lack of road between King Cove and Cold Bay

By KTVA Alaska 7:43 PM March 19, 2014

Two U.S. Coast Guard medevacs in a single day shine light on a fight that's been waging on for nearly 40 years.

ANCHORAGE – Residents of King Cove say they need a road to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay, but the federal government is standing in the way.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell decided back in December 2013 that, “building a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge would cause irreversible damage not only to the refuge, but to the wildlife that depend on it.”

After four medevacs so far this year, residents of King Cove are asking, “What about the people?”

The U.S. Coast Guard was called for two of those medevacs out of King Cove this month.

One patient was nearly crushed by 600 pounds of fishing equipment. The other patient was having breathing issues. Those two patients were Walter Wilson and his 6-week-old son, Wyatt.

As Wyatt lies in the Alaska Native Medical Center, he lets out a subtle wheeze with each breath. That, according to his father Walter, is a sign of progress.

“Still got the cough and a little groggy through his nose breathing, but he’s doing better and better,” Walter said. “That’s a good thing.”

A very good thing, considering Wyatt actually stopped breathing while waiting six hours for a medevac to Anchorage. That’s where Wyatt would have to go to receive the life-saving care he needed for treatment of his respiratory syncytial virus, an illness that can prove fatal, and nearly did in Wyatt’s case.

Waiting next to Wyatt in King Cove’s primary care clinic is his father Walter, in excruciating pain after 600 pounds of fishing equipment nearly crushed him.

“In the afternoon is when it happened. I got here the morning after,” Walter said. “I just couldn’t do nothing. My hips were out of place until I got here to Anchorage.”

It’s a story out of the Alaska Peninsula that has become far too common, according to King Cove Mayor Henry Mack.

“We’re thankful that we haven’t lost anybody but, my God, we need this road,” Mack said.

Mack has been fighting for the road that would’ve saved Walter and Wyatt and so many others from wasting critical time waiting since the 1970s with little progress.

The road would connect the small community of King Cove to the all-weather airport in Cold Bay, where patients could immediately fly to Anchorage to receive care.

With no road, the Coast Guard is tasked to transport patients.

“They’re gracious men and women who come and help save our people,” Mack said. “If we had a road that we could use to get over to Cold Bay, we didn’t have to have the Walter Jr.s and his son, the Irene Newmans …”

Or Mack’s own grandson, Nick, who was forced to wait seven hours for a medevac while suffering respiratory failure.

“We had to sit with him all night long,” Mack recalls. “You know, you sit there and you watch him try to gasp for air and you’ve just go to hold him close, rub him.”

Setting aside the suffering of the men, women and children of King Cove, Jewell has decided the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge needs protecting more than these residents need that road.

Jewell’s office responded to KTVA’s request to speak with her via email citing her Dec. 23 statement on this decision saying, “I understand the need for reliable methods of medical transport from King Cove, but I have concluded that other methods of transport remain that could be improved to meet community needs.”

Mack says advocates for the road to Cold Bay are planning to travel to Washington D.C. this coming week to speak with Jewell.

“People really need to know what’s going on,” Mack said. “This is about our lives, our young people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, as Walter and Wyatt heal, they’ll serve as yet another mile marker on the long-awaited road to King Cove.

Latest Stories

  • Lifestyle

    Bristol Palin announces she is expecting her third child

    by Associated Press on Dec 10, 10:44

    Bristol Palin is expecting her third child, she tells Entertainment Tonight. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter announced her pregnancy on ET. She and husband Dakota Meyer said they are excited and “blessed” to welcome a baby in the spring. A Palin family spokesman declined to comment. Bristol Palin launched an abstinence campaign after giving […]

  • Troopers: Fairbanks woman arrested for death of domestic partner

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 10, 10:32

    Alaska State Troopers arrested a woman after her domestic partner was found shot to death in Fairbanks Friday night. According to an online dispatch, troopers were notified of a death at a Fairchild Avenue home around 11:30 p.m. They found 66-year-old Steven Halonen had succumbed to his injuries following a shooting. Mary Gansman, 47, faces […]

  • Lifestyle

    Eroding village to seek disaster designation for relocation

    by Associated Press on Dec 10, 10:28

    A western Alaska village is eroding due to climate change and officials plan to ask President Barack Obama for a disaster declaration so that federal funds can be pursued to relocate residents. Alaska’s Energy Desk reports that engineers predict as many as six Newtok homes will be lost by fall followed by the village school […]

  • News

    Tears, laughter and healing: Murdered teen remembered at Palmer vigil

    by Bonney Bowman on Dec 09, 22:23

    Hundreds of people braved single-digit temperatures to remember David Grunwald, the Palmer teen murdered almost one month ago. Family friends organized a candlelight vigil as a way to not just mourn the 16-year-old, but to take steps toward healing from the pain of his passing. “We just want to get back to the core of […]

  • News

    Troopers: Remains of passenger in plane crash near Fairbanks recovered

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 09, 22:09

    Alaska State Troopers were able to recover the body of the only passenger on a plane that crashed Wednesday near Fairbanks. The agency is waiting to provide positive identification of the passenger on board until after the autopsy. But Gov. Bill Walker identified the passenger as former Alaska lawmaker Mike Kelly earlier this week. In […]

  • Lifestyle

    Climate change film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ gets a sequel

    by Associated Press on Dec 09, 21:56

    LOS ANGELES (AP) – Al Gore’s climate change documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” is getting a sequel. Paramount Pictures said Friday the follow-up to the Oscar-winning original will premiere at next January’s Sundance Film Festival. In the new documentary, former Vice President Gore examines global warming’s escalation and the solutions at hand, Paramount said. In a […]

  • News

    Father and children headed to Anchorage for volleyball tournament when plane disappeared

    by Lauren Maxwell on Dec 09, 21:20

    A statement released from family members of a father and two children, who likely died in a plane crash near Port Alsworth on Wednesday, said they were traveling to Anchorage to attend the Alaska State Volleyball Championships. The National Park Service has identified the pilot as 25-year-old Kyle Longerbeam. The passengers are identified as 45-year-old […]

  • Surveillance footage captures attempted break-in at Anchorage bike shop

    by Eric Ruble on Dec 09, 21:04

    The general manager of The Bicycle Shop, on Northern Lights Boulevard, said other local businesses should be on the lookout for a man who attempted to break into the shop Tuesday morning. Surveillance footage shows a man using a crowbar to try to pry open the front door of the business. “The doors looks like you […]