• 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

  • News

    Police seek information on missing Anchorage woman

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 31, 17:02

    The Anchorage Police Department is asking for the public’s help in locating a missing woman. Danielle McCall, 25, was last seen in the Muldoon Road area on Wednesday, July 29, around 11 a.m. Police say she is believed to be driving a maroon 2006 GMC Sierra pickup truck with license plate EZY489. She is 5-feet […]

  • News

    Coast Guard honors teenage plane crash survivor

    by Associated Press on Jul 31, 15:53

    The U.S. Coast Guard has honored the teenage survivor of a plane crash near Juneau for helping other passengers and attracting the attention of rescuers. Jose Vazquez, of Puerto Rico, received a recognition letter from the head of the Coast Guard in Alaska on Thursday. Vazquez was one of four passengers on the plane bound […]

  • News

    Appeals court affirms conviction of woman in hot sauce case

    by Associated Press on Jul 31, 13:17

    An Alaska appeals court has affirmed the conviction of an Anchorage woman whom prosecutors said used a videotape of herself punishing her son to try to get on the “Dr. Phil” show. Jessica Beagley in 2011 was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse for punishing her adopted Russian son by putting hot sauce into his mouth. […]

  • Sports

    Alaskans help Special Olympics athletes hear at World Games

    by Megan Mazurek on Jul 31, 13:05

    An Alaskan doctor and her daughter are helping some Special Olympics athletes hear for the first time. Joyce Sexton, an audiologist from Anchorage, and her daughter Irene are volunteering at the World Games in the Healthy Athletes program. In the past week, volunteers have given free medical exams to more than 4,000 athletes from around […]

  • News

    UPDATE: One confirmed dead in Portage area crash

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 31, 12:51

    Update: 5:23 p.m. July 31 A nurse at the scene of a multi-vehicle wreck near Mile 80 of the Seward Highway has confirmed that at least one person has died. Three people were reportedly transported from the scene with critical injuries, according to Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters. “There are multiple people on scene that […]

  • News

    Some Alaska Natives allowed visa-free travel to Russian area

    by Associated Press on Jul 31, 12:16

    Some western Alaska Natives can travel back and forth to a Russian region without a visa under a 1989 agreement that was recently revived. Vera Metcalf, a Native leader who works part time with the State Department, said Friday that the program allows indigenous residents from both sides of the Bering Strait to visit for […]

  • News

    Authorities report 2 arrests in Portland’s Arctic drilling protest

    by Associated Press on Jul 31, 11:24

    The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office says it made one arrest during an effort by protesters to block a Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker from leaving Portland for an Arctic drilling operation. Lt. Harry Smith says 19-year-old Christian Pence refused to leave the Willamette River after being told the waterway was closed Thursday afternoon, and then assaulted […]

  • Sports

    Anchorage dentist provides free exams at Special Olympics World Games

    by Megan Mazurek on Jul 31, 11:08

    An Anchorage dentist has peered into more than 300 mouths a day for the past week at the Special Olympics World Games. “I saw some patients yesterday where I almost wanted to start to cry because they were still smiling,” said Dr. Lara Mabry, a volunteer dentist for Healthy Athletes. “When I saw the condition […]