For Chugach, we believe community extends beyond our employees, friends and families, especially in Prince William Sound. We’d like to thank the men and women of the United States Coast Guard for the vital role they play in safeguarding the waters that have been our home for more than 5,000 years.
In late 2018, Tom Karshekoff, a longtime Chugach employee, experienced a medical emergency while working on Nuchek Island. This remote and isolated island sits at the entrance of Prince William Sound (PWS). In the best of conditions, PWS offers some of the most tranquil and majestic scenery in the world; but in the winter, PWS can be dangerous and unforgiving.
That was case when the emergency call went out. Seasonal storms had hammered the area for more than a week, winds and cloud cover restricted air travel and seas were too rough for small boats. But the United States Coast Guard lives by the motto Semper Paratus (Always Ready), and they definitely lived up to their motto in October of 2018.
The crew of the Coast Guard’s Chandeleur heeded the call and immediately set sail. Stationed in Valdez, the 110-foot cutter came to the rescue and was anchored in Port Etches, just off the coast of Nuchek, within an hour. Crewmembers then came to shore on a rubber raft and stabilized the Nuchek caretaker for medavac to Cordova. Tom stayed at the Cordova Hospital overnight and was released the following day.
Chugach Alaska Corporation and the Karshekoff family would like to express our gratitude to the crew of the Chandeleur and the United States Coast Guard support personnel for all their help, and for their dedication and service.
“We hope that someday the ship’s crew can make a stop at Nuchek in better weather for a tour and a little rest and relaxation,” said John F. C. Johnson, Chugach’s Vice President of Cultural Resources whose department manages the historical site. “The door is always open.”
In response, Lt. Merrill Gutowski, Commanding Officer of the Chandeleur, stated, “We were very happy to have been able to assist in the medevac from Nuchek Island. Thank you very much for reaching out.”
Lt. Gutowski went on to commend his crew mates. “First and foremost, the crew of the Chandeleur work as a team. Beyond that the two members of the small boat crew were: BM1 Joseph Whallon and BM1 Kyle Casey. They were instrumental in bringing our small boat ashore in this unfamiliar port, quickly locating Tom and safely escorting him back onto the ship.”
“Finally, BM2 Jesse Lloyd played a role in Tom’s medical care through the process. He accompanied our ship’s boarding team ashore, quickly assessed that it was safe to move him to the ship, and then closely monitored him during the four-hour journey back to Cordova. Thank you again for following up. It was a privilege to be able to help him in his time of need.”
Tom Karshekoff is an Army veteran with a passion for the outdoors, and he’s been a winter caretaker and a traditional subsistence teacher at Nuuciq Spirit Camp for many years. Tom is from the village of Nondalton where he used to hunt moose while navigating the area’s deep snows and frozen lakes via dog sled. Prior to his time with Chugach, he was a big-game guide and commercial fisherman for most of his life.