Coast Guard to posthumously recognize Alaskan hero

Coast Guard District 17 NewsANCHORAGE, Alaska — Coast Guard Sector Anchorage will posthumously recognize an Alaskan resident for her role in the 1950 rescue of a fisherman stranded off Chichagof Island during a special ceremony, at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Betty Haynes (formerly Mork) was posthumously awarded a Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award at a ceremony in Sitka Sept. 13, 2011 for her role in the rescue of Helvig Christensen from the wreckage of the fishing vessel Dixie near Chichagof Island on Nov. 18, 1950.

The Coast Guard is holding a second recognition for Ms. Haynes in Anchorage for family members who were unable to travel to Sitka for the September ceremony.

On Nov. 15, 1950, the former mayor of Pelican, and his sons, were aboard the fishing vessel Dixie returning from a hunting trip when gale force winds and high seas caused them to run aground and tossed them into near freezing waters. Christensen, the only survivor, clung to Yakobi Rock fighting breaking surf and the tide.

Allain, a commercial fisherman, learned of the situation and asked his cousins Betty Mork, 16, and Marie Laws, 13, to assist in searching for the missing hunters using his 32-foot fishing vessel. The rescuers navigated to Yakobi Rock where they heard a call for help from Christensen. While attempting to recover Christensen their boat struck a submerged reef resulting in significant damage to the vessel. Despite the damage, Allain launched a skiff and rowed to recover Christensen, while fighting freezing gale force winds.

Mork and Laws fought to keep the damaged boat afloat using the manual bilge pump and maneuvered the vessel in the steep swells to avoid the treacherous rocks. After the three rescuers successfully brought Christensen aboard they provided first aid during the transit back to Pelican. The rescuers arrived in Pelican at daybreak Nov. 18. Christensen, who was in critical condition, was medevaced to Juneau for further medical care.

Norm Carson, resident of Pelican and former Alaska State Trooper, discovered the accomplishments of Laws, Mork and Allain while researching history on Pelican. Carson wrote a book about the incident and presented a copy of it to Coast Guard officials in the spring 2011. It was determined the heroic rescue warranted recognition from the Coast Guard.

For information on the previous recognition go to: Coast Guard recognizes Alaska heroes.

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