SITKA — A Sitka fisherman has received one of the U.S. Coast Guard’s highest civilian honors for his role in saving a fellow mariner last summer.
John Hagen received the Public Service Commendation in a ceremony Thursday at Air Station Sitka, as Coast Guard pilots and officers watched in full dress uniform, KCAW reported.
In June, Hagen intentionally beached his troller in Icy Strait to rescue Tim Lane, who was drifting by in a waterlogged survival suit.
Lane’s crewman, Alan Young, had gone overboard from Lane’s boat. His body was never found despite a search that covered 450 square miles.
The Coast Guard credits Lane’s survival largely to Hagen’s efforts. The commendation described Lane as being “on the brink of death.”
Hagen told reporters and a camera crew from the Weather Channel’s “Coast Guard Alaska” program, which also was on hand, he did not consider his actions to be extraordinary and was a bit reluctant to take full credit for the rescue. He said his granddaughter, Sabina, assisted as his deckhand.
He also said it could have been anyone in his place.
In retelling the story, he said he awoke around 3 a.m. to the sound of someone yelling his boat’s name. When he went to the dock, he saw a man floating by in a small dinghy. He said he could tell immediately that the man was in trouble and “very hypothermic.”
“I tried to get a life ring to him, but the current’s very swift there and he was gone before I could even get it unhooked. I got my granddaughter up, we pulled anchor and caught up with him,” he said.
They tried to get the man on board but his survival suit was full of water, Hagen said.
“We got a rope around him and towed him to the beach. And from there we were able to pull him up to the bow, get a long pole and push him up on to the beach where he could get out on his own,” Hagen said. “It wasn’t until then that I took the time to call the Coast Guard and tried to get help. Every second seemed to be important to get this guy on the beach.”
After the Coast Guard hoisted Lane, Hagen powered his steel-hulled vessel into deeper water, towed the dinghy back to Lane’s boat and began searching for Young.