Locals Use Car Lights to Help Medevac Land on Dark Runway

The medical transport plane was trying to land to airlift a girl, but the runway's lights weren't working
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2020 10:10 AM CDT
With Runway Lights Out, Medevac Couldn't Land. Locals Improvised
This is what functional runway lights look like.   (Getty Images/plusphoto)

Residents of a tiny Alaskan village jumped out of bed en masse Friday night, using their vehicles to light up a runway so that a medevac plane could land to help save a child. Per Alaska Public Media and the AP, the state-owned airport in Igiugig, a small town in southwest Alaska with a population of 70, has had trouble with its runway lights of late. Just before midnight Friday, that caused a major problem as a Beechcraft King Air medical transport plane sent by LifeMed Alaska was trying to land there to airlift a local girl and transport her to Anchorage. "Normally if you push the button like 10 or 15 times the lights will just light up," tribal member Ida Nelson says. This time they didn't, however, so Nelson, who could hear the plane making passes overhead, jumped into action. She got in her ATV and sped over to the runway, while a neighbor made dozens of calls to others to do the same.

Soon, "pretty much almost every household" had sent over vehicles, which lined up along the runway with their headlights facing east so the pilot could land—which he did, safely. The girl was transported to an Anchorage hospital, treated, and released. A rep for the state's transportation department tells the New York Times that the runway lights had been run over by an ATV and vandalized, and that maintenance workers had been out to examine the issue just last week. She adds that repairs, which can be challenging, will be made ASAP: "Often our maintenance workers have to fly in from other locations, so it can take days at times." LifeMed Alaska praised the villagers online, showing a pic (briefly) of complete darkness, save for a line of lights. "What appears to be a blurry, dark photo is actually a view of what an amazing community can do with a lot of determination," the service wrote in its post, per KTOO. (More uplifting news stories.)

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