Man stuck in Turnagain Arm mudflats rescued

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 12:15 PM AKST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2022 at 9:41 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A man doing surveying work was rescued Thursday morning after getting stuck up to his waist in mud near Girdwood, according to the Girdwood Fire Department.

The incident closed the Seward Highway near mile 90 for over 40 minutes as members of the fire department conducted rescue operations on the mudflats that have gained notoriety over the years as a trap for people willing to venture out.

Girdwood Fire Department Chief Michelle Weston said the man was stuck up to his waist in mud, with an additional three inches of water above that, as crews worked to save him from the rising tide using a penetrating nozzle that uses water to open up space around a person’s body.

“It’s my understanding that he called his employer on his cell phone because he was surveying by himself and mentioned that he was stuck,” Weston said. “His employer then called us, and then that started the 911 process.”

Using a mud rescue tool created by the Girdwood Fire Department, the team responding was able to get the man out of the mud. They used the tool to blast water at the mud that was surrounding the man’s body, allowing the man to be removed.

Weston said the man was in “good spirits” and declined a trip to the hospital.

“We were very lucky with where the tides were in this scenario, because we had a good amount of time to operate out there before he would have been covered up completely by the incoming tides,” firefighter Stuart Parry said.

According to the Girdwood Fire Department, their teams respond to 2 to 3 rescue missions similar to this one each year. They ask that people call when they need help, and understand the risks associated with the area.

“We recommend that if you are, for some reason, on the mudflats that you’re not by yourself and that you keep moving and do not stay in one spot at a time,” Weston cautioned. “If you are stuck, call early, don’t call when you’re stuck, you know, above your knee.”

The surveyor was conducting contract work with R&M Consultants in connection with the Intersection Improvements project that is set to begin at the Seward Highway and Alyeska Highway interchange, according to a spokesperson with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.