• 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

    AFD conducts water rescue training on Cook Inlet

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 25, 14:37

    The Anchorage Fire Department is warning people not to try and walk from the Anchorage shore across to Fire Island. Authorities say that too often, attempts turn deadly. Anchorage Fireman and their partners from Ted Stevens practiced water rescues Saturday afternoon. They were working with jet skis and a boat. AFD says in the summer, […]

  • News

    Columbus Day to be known as Indigenous Peoples day in Alaska

    by Liz Raines on Jun 25, 14:27

    From now on, Columbus Day in Alaska will be known as Indigenous Peoples day. Gov. Bill Walker signed House Bill 78 into law Saturday, in Utquiagvik, the town formerly known as Barrow. The signing took place at Nalukataq, the Inupiaq whaling festival. The setting was particularly symbolic for many there, where the American, Alaska and Inupiat […]

  • Anchorage’s Swayman, Evingson selected in NHL Draft

    by Dave Leval on Jun 25, 14:20

    Jeremy Swayman’s dad grew up a New York Rangers’ fan. Looks like he will have to root for another “Original Six” team. The Boston Bruins selected Jeremy in the fourth round of Saturday’s NHL Draft. The 18-year-old Anchorage native spent the last two seasons as a goalie with the Sioux Falls Stampede in the United […]

  • Sports

    Musher Travis Beals allowed to compete in 2018 Iditarod

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 25, 13:49

    Domestic violence is a big problem in Alaska, and this year, the issue made headlines when it became a focus of the last great race. A musher had to sit out of the Iditarod due to domestic violence charges against him. But now, musher Travis Beals could be back on the trail next March. Beals […]

  • News

    Brown bear mauls cyclist on JBER

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 25, 12:43

    The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says a group of cyclists encountered a bear on JBER Saturday morning. Authorities say the group came across a brown bear with cubs while cycling near Clunie Lake. The cyclists used bear spray to fend off the sow, but one cyclist was “knocked down and roughed up,” according […]

  • Statue stands in honor of Iditarod founder

    by Dave Leval on Jun 24, 22:21

    He already has a school named after him, now, there’s another way to honor the man known as the “father of the Iditarod.” It took Palmer artist Pat Garley took roughly 18 months to complete the “Joe Redington, Senior on the Trail” statue that sits outside Redington Junior-Senior High School. The part of Redington weighs […]

  • Rookie musher first to sign up for 2018 Iditarod

    by Dave Leval on Jun 24, 22:19

    Shaynee Traska has what she needs as she prepares for the biggest challenge of her athletic career. The Yukon Quest 300 veteran from Two Rivers wants to play with the big dogs. Traska is the first person to sign up for next year’s Iditarod. “Very surprised, being a big Iditarod sign up day, I thought […]

  • News

    Pride Fest celebrates 40 years in Anchorage

    by Heather Hintze on Jun 24, 18:04

    Hundreds of people turned out in downtown Anchorage for the 40th annual Pride Fest. Mo Haddock and Callene Monasmith set their lawn chairs up early to get a front for the parade. “It’s a lot of fun. We like to people watch anyway but today is very fulfilling. Very heartwarming to see so many people […]