High school student honored for Gold Creek rescue

Left to Right: Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School student Iosefa Riley John, 14, was honored by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, Juneau Police Chief Bryce Johnson and Capital City Fire Chief Richard Etheridge during a ceremony on March 31, 2017 at the school. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

A 14-year-old Juneau high school student was honored by the governor’s office today for rescuing a 5-year-old boy he saw fall into a fast-running creek.

Juneau-Douglas High School sophomore Seth Gerrin was one of four friends hanging out at Cope Park on Wednesday at about 6 p.m. Gerrin said some small children and an adult walked up the path. One of the children in the group was walking near the fast-running water of Gold Creek when he lost his footing.

“He started to slide down and there was a fence and a tree there and it looked like he was going stop himself,” Gerrin said in an interview. “My friend Xavian tried to grab him — he fell off. Riley jumped into the water and grabbed him and handed him up to me. We carried him up to the ambulance and made sure he was OK and we left.”

Fast-running Gold Creek in downtown Juneau can be potentially deadly as this file photo from 2011 illustrates. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

His friend Riley is 14-year-old Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School student Iosefa Riley John.

Authorities said the young man’s quick thinking and fast acting likely saved 5-year-old Mason Varner from drowning in the fast-moving creek. The teenager was honored Friday afternoon by Juneau police, rescuers and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott who presented an award from the governor’s office.

“We never say, ‘Son or daughter, we want  you to perform an act of selfless courage that might put you in harm’s way,'” Mallott said during a ceremony at Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School. “And somehow it was there in this young man.”

The rescued child attended the short ceremony and appeared to be in good spirits as his visibly moved mother clung to him. Riley John spoke only briefly to thank everyone and to clarify that his friend, Seth Gerrin, also deserved to be recognized for helping get the boy to safety.

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