Tourist rescues angler from Anchorage's Ship Creek

Posted: Monday, August 21, 2006

ANCHORAGE - A Minnesota tourist in Anchorage for a weekend marathon was credited by police with saving the life of an angler swept down an urban creek.

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Brian McNeill grabbed fisherman David Kawagley as he floated down Ship Creek and helped pull him to safety.

Kawagley told a police officer that he had been trying to cross the creek while wearing waders.

"The water was just running torrentially, unlike normal," said Anchorage Police Sgt. Dennis Allen.

Kawagley was overwhelmed by the current, said Anchorage Police officer Tyler Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe said Kawagley likely would have died without help.

McNeill was in Anchorage to run Humpy's Marathon on Sunday.

Saturday was McNeill's first day in Anchorage. He is a social worker in an emergency hospital in Minneapolis.

At his hotel, he had read a tour guide about Ship Creek, a popular urban fishery. Coho salmon migrate up the creek.

"So I'm like, I'll go try and see that," he said.

He was standing near a bridge over Ship Creek when he saw Kawagley struggling in the water.

"I went over there and yelled at him and ended up in the water with him. It was really slick and muddy. I managed to grab his hand," said McNeill. "His waders were filled with water, so he couldn't hardly move."

It was drizzling and only a few people were fishing, McNeill said. Most were not aware of the struggle and kept fishing while McNeill tried to help Kawagley stand.

Another fisherman eventually came over and helped pull Kawagley up the muddy bank to higher ground.

Kawagley, weighed down by his waders and weakened from the struggle, still could not stand, McNeill said.

Police cut holes in Kawagley's hip waders.

"The water just gushed," McNeill said.

Kawagley was treated by paramedics.

McNeill never did see any salmon. The water was full of silt.

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