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Luck and quick acting State Ferry crew help avert tragedy
Published: 11/10/2011 19:45:00
Updated: 11/13/2011 00:45:33

"It's hard to believe when you look out at this, that it can go from this flat calm to 8-foot seas like that." Says Don Kubley, as he points out across the water from his deck on the shore near Lena point. "And that's what makes Southeast Alaska so dangerous, and so beautiful."

Last Saturday, Dani Gifford headed out with friends to meet up for the afternoon with a group that was out camping and hunting on Admiralty Island; just a short skiff ride from Auke Bay. But the weather took a turn for the worse, and the group was forced to unexpectedly spend the night without adequate supplies.

Gifford told us how she felt as the weather closed in and forced them into a 2nd day in the storm: "The cold, the wind blowing in our faces and I have really bad breathing problems. I was already without my medication for a couple of days. And when I realized that we weren't going to get back, I was going into attack mode; I started to panic and said I'm not going to last another night out here with nothing to save me."

After the group didn't return as expected after a potentially life-saving phone call saying they were getting on the water, parents including Kubley who had a son in the group, began to get concerned and put out a call on marine radio for help. The State Ferry Fairweather just happened to be passing by testing their new engines.

"The Captain came on and said 'Mr Kubley, this is the captain of the Fairweather. We're going up the beach right now, we can be there in 2 minutes.' And I said 'Great, take a look in Barlow Cut and see if you can see the skiffs'" said Kubley.

The Fairweather made contact with the group to discover that Dani needed urgent medical help. She was transferred, hypothermic, unconscious, and not breathing to the ferry, where she received treatment as they rushed her back to Auke Bay.

Gifford says she is thankful to those who came to her aid that night. "I owe a lot of things to everyone on the Fairweather, I was the only passenger. I owe a lot to the boys too; they made the right decision by putting me on there and getting me safely to the Fairweather."

Kubley could only listen in via radio until he received word via cell phone from the Fairweather that they had the unconscious Gifford aboard. "Until then there was no communications; we really thought that there was a chance... we really thought there was a chance that, you know, they'd gone down. So it was a long day, and um, I just thank the lord that everybody's safe. And I especially thank the folks on that ship and the medical crew that helped. They're Alaskan heroes in my book" he said.

By: Mikko Wilson -