Rescuers Can Only Watch as Man Stuck in Mud Drowns

Illinois' Zachary Porter got trapped while in Alaska
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2023 11:55 AM CDT
Tide Drowns Man Stuck in Mud Before He Can Be Rescued
A channel flows through the mud flats along the Seward Highway and Turnagain Arm in Alaska on Oct. 25, 2014.   (Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

Authorities in Alaska tried without luck to free a 20-year-old man who'd become stuck waist-deep in mud flats on Sunday and had to watch as he was drowned by the incoming tide. Zachary Porter of Lake Bluff, Illinois, had been walking with friends on the Turnagain Arm mud flats near Hope when he became stuck between 50 to 100 feet from shore around 6pm, reports the Anchorage Daily News. A friend immediately called 911, recognizing this would be a race against time, with the tide moving in. Despite the friends' efforts to free Porter, he was waist-deep in mud when the first rescue crews arrived. He remained stuck and was submerged just before 6:45pm, troopers said, adding his body was recovered Monday morning.

"I have been in contact with all my members, and they're all heartbroken," Kristy Peterson, lead EMT for the Hope-Sunrise Volunteer Fire Department, who was at the scene for the rescue attempt, tells the AP. "This is a hard situation," she adds. "But you have to remember that it's Mother Nature, and she has no mercy for humanity." Several other people have died after becoming stuck in the mud flats, per the AP. In 2013, Army Capt. Joseph Eros died while trying to cross from Fire Island to Anchorage. Years earlier in 1988, 18-year-old Adeana Dickison died after becoming stuck in mud flats near Ingram Creek.

But those are rare cases. As the Daily News reports, the Girdwood Fire Department is called to rescue people trapped in mud flats at least a couple of times per year. Just last month, crews rescued a person who'd become trapped while fishing. Girdwood Fire crews use a tool that sprays high-pressure water or air into the mud-like quicksand to break it up, per the Daily News. But there needs to be enough hands ready to rescue crew members that might also become stuck. Members of the Girdwood Fire Department arrived too late Sunday, following a 47-mile trip that can take up to an hour. A friend of Porter's who tried to save him was taken to a hospital with hypothermia, per Alaska Public Media. (More Alaska stories.)

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