Saving a boater’s life

Long time Juneau resident Bruce Denton is glad to be alive. The 63-year-old contractor nearly died the morning of August 27 in a rowing accident in Aurora Harbor. He credits the quick actions of four Aurora Harbor residents for saving his life.

Denton’s story was told at the Juneau Assembly meeting Monday night, and the four Good Samaritans were given Citizen Commendations for what Mayor Bruce Botelho calls “acts of heroism.”

It started like this: Crystal and Bert Fawcett were driving away from the parking lot near the Yacht Club when she spotted a man in a rowing shell between the shore and main floats, just north of the H-float ramp.

Then she noticed the shell had stopped. She could not see the boater, but saw blood and called 9-1-1. Her husband Bert and Jerry Burns – who was on his way to his boat — rushed down the ramp.

They saw the boater submerged next to the shell about 15 feet from the main float and dove into the water. He was unconscious, not breathing, and foam was in his mouth. As Jerry cradled his head above the water, they tried to drag him back to the dock, but his feet were still strapped to the 24-foot shell.

Meanwhile, Crystal got the attention of another harbor resident, John Feller.

Mayor Botelho continues the story:

“So he started down to help, grabbing a long-handled deck brush along the way. He was able to reach out with the deck brush to help Bert and Jerry, and once John was able to reach out and hold the victim, Jerry made it onto the dock while Bert was able to release the Velcro straps that were keeping the victim anchored to the shell. While Jerry cradled the victim’s head, John began doing CPR chest compressions, which expelled volumes of water,” Botelho said.

Then Denton coughed and started to breathe.

Capital City Fire and Rescue provided advance life support to Bartlett Regional Hospital, where he spent the night in Intensive Care. Denton was released the next day.

He was in Assembly Chambers as his story was being told. In addition to publically thanking the four citizen responders, CCFR, and hospital staff, he encouraged the public to learn the skill of CPR.

“I would like to think that something good for me, besides surviving, that’s coming from this thing is that it would be an opportunity to encourage people to take a class,” he said.

Jerry Burns works for Juneau Marine Services in Auke Bay. Bert Fawcett has been a fireman and worked in tourism this summer, Crystal Fawcett is a student at UAS, and John Feller is a retired commercial fisherman.

“They all have in common that they are residents of our Juneau harbor,” Botelho said.

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