Gold Creek hero honored

Iosefa Riley John, who goes by Riley, was awarded by the Juneau Police Department on Friday for his bravery in saving 5-year-old Mason Varner from drowning in Gold Creek on Wednesday.


A 14-year-old student at Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School, John was out with his friends for a stroll in Cope Park on Wednesday evening when Varner fell into the creek. John jumped in after the boy, who was quickly being swept downriver in near-freezing waters. John saved Varner’s life, JPD said.

A friend Seth Gerrin, 16, was also honored for assisting John by helping pull him and Varner out of the river. John, suffering from the cold, was having a hard time exiting.

In a Thursday interview with the Empire, John said he “didn’t think about it that much,” and followed his instincts to just “help the kid out.”

Varner suffered only bumps and bruises from the ordeal. His mother, Kristen Hemlock, kept Varner home from school Thursday and attended the event Friday to meet John and thank him.

“I am just so thankful for him, that he saved my little boy,” Hemlock said Thursday. “It could have been so much different. I can’t even express in any words how incredible he (John) is.”

JPD has recommended Varner for a Civilian Life Saving Award. Read a full story of John and Gerrin’s heroic rescue at


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