Dave Stott says Juneau Police Officer Karl Reishus died saving his life.
In what was probably the darkest day for both the Juneau police and fire departments, Reishus was killed, and firefighters Stott and Pat Peterson were severely injured during an accident a quarter century ago at the Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center.
All three men fell from the top of the four-story structure.
“The whole process took 3 seconds. It’s 2-and-a-half seconds, 3 seconds from the time you started falling to (when) you hit the ground,” remembered Stott. “It really goes by quick. It’s amazing that your mind is working all the way down. You’re looking for a solution as you’re falling.”
Reishus was remembered by officers from the Juneau Police Department and firefighters from Capital City Fire/Rescue during a ceremony Thursday at the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives and Museum.
Jerry Nankervis, now retired from the Juneau Police Department and currently serving as a member of the Juneau Assembly, remembers carpooling with Reishus and watching him bring his children’s toy figures to work with him.
He said Reishus seemed overenthusiastic at times, but he always wanted to do the right thing. An animated Nankervis ran along the memorial service’s seating area as he reenacted how they worked together.
“Often walking downtown, we worked foot patrol at night, at bar break, this would be Karl: ‘Bar fight!’” remembered Nankervis. “And he’d go running down the street. He’d go from Ferry (Way) all the way to the clock. Get there all out of breath, wrestle with drunks, take them to jail. ‘Karl, why did you run down there?’ ‘There’s a fight!’ Everybody knows the joke, why run down the hill when you can walk down the hill. ‘Karl, let’s just walk.’ ‘OK.’ Next night: ‘There’s a fight!’ There he goes running down the street. ‘Karl!’ ‘I just can’t help myself, Jerry. I just can’t help myself.’”
Memorial plaques commemorating Reishus will be erected at the Juneau Police Department and at the Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center. A street in the new Pederson Hill subdivision will be named after him.
Reishus, who had five years total experience in law enforcement and two years experience with the Juneau Police Department, was 29 years old when he was killed in May 1992.
Police Chief Bryce Johnson said he was the fourth Juneau police officer killed in the line of duty.
How did it happen?
Stott, who was a career firefighter at the downtown station and a volunteer at the Douglas station back then, said he, Peterson and Reishus participated in a high-angle rope rescue exercise at the training center. Peterson was playing the part of the victim who was secured inside a litter. Stott was the litter attendant. They were on belay on separate ropes to the roof of the building, but hooked up together.
Peterson’s back was to the wall while Stott’s legs straddled the litter as he walked both of them down the side of the building. Reishus was on the roof, just inside the parapet.
But shortly after starting their descent, Stott said both lines went slack. Up top, Reishus grabbed the ropes. But the combined weight pulled Reishus over the parapet and off the roof.
“At the third window, I realize that I’m not going to stop,” remembered Stott. “If I do stop, I’m probably still going to hit the ground.”
Listen to an excerpt of an interview with Dave Stott:
Stott and Peterson were severely injured. Reishus later died from his injuries.
Stott said he and Reishus weren’t good friends and usually only connected during work-related calls.
“But what I knew of him, he was a great guy,” Stott said. “And what he did that day, proved it.”
Stott said the accident ended his career as a professional firefighter. He said he’s lost track of how many surgeries he’s endured since then. The last one was just in November. Stott now lives in Seattle and works as an electrician.