Coast Guard Medevacs Injured Fisherman from King Cove

April 1, 2014

Patient is the Fifth Coast Guard Medevac this Year

King Cove, AK – April 1, 2014 – The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 58-year old fisherman from King Cove yesterday (March 31, 2014) during stormy conditions after he was injured on board a Seattle-based processor near Unimak Island in the North Pacific Ocean. The Seattle fisherman severely injured his eye after he was accidentally sprayed with a high-pressure hose at about 1 a.m. yesterday. The 305-foot vessel, M/V Golden Alaska,was heading from Dutch Harbor to Seattle when the accident happened. The closest deep-water port to the Cold Bay Airport was King Cove.

“When we received notice about his injury, we recommended that the vessel go to Cold Bay since it would be easier to medevac him to an Anchorage hospital from there,” said King Cove Clinic Physician’s Assistant Katie Eby.

However, with winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour and high seas, the vessel decided against trying to lift the patient up the 20-foot ladder at the Cold Bay dock and instead landed in King Gove where he was immediately transported to the clinic and admitted there at 11:30 a.m.

“After an assessment at the clinic and a consultation, an emergency room doctor in Anchorage recommended that the patient needed urgent attention by an ophthalmologist in order to preserve as much of his eyesight as possible,” Eby said. “We began exploring options to medevac him since commercial planes weren’t flying into King Cove.”

Eby said Coast Guard personnel wanted to wait until the wind subsided before attempting to land in King Cove to pick up the patient.

“We managed his pain and bandaged his eye to protect it from further injury, but he needed to get to an eye specialist as soon as possible,” Eby said. “Our treatment here at the King Cove Clinic is very limited. Fortunately, the brave Coast Guard crew was able to fly in when others could not. But if we had a road, we could have driven to Cold Bay much sooner to meet the life flight team and not risked the lives of the Coast Guard and the patient.”

The Coast Guard was finally able to make it into King Cove at about 3 p.m.

Monday’s medevac marks the fifth time the Coast Guard has had to fly into King Cove this year to get a patient to an Anchorage hospital. In total, there have been eight emergency transfers of patients from King Cove to Anchorage since Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected the land exchange and road proposal at the end of December.

In March 2009, President Obama signed into law legislation approving a land swap of 56,000 acres from the state of Alaska and the King Cove (Native) Corp. to the federal government. Approximately 43,000 acres would have gone into wilderness status. In exchange, 206 acres would have been set aside for a small, single-lane gravel road to the Cold Bay Airport. On Dec. 23, 2013, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected the road. Since then, King Cove residents, Alaska’s Congressional Delegation and Governor Sean Parnell have asked Jewell to reconsider her decision. In the meantime, King Cove tribal and community leaders are providing information to send to Jewell this month which will demonstrate, once again, that the road is the only viable transportation alternative.