Is there anything vehicle lighting systems can’t do? If you think they can’t assist in saving the life of a child, then, buddy, boy are you wrong. And it’s not just me saying that: drivers in the remote town of Igugig, Alaska proved this a few days ago when they came together and used their cars, SUVs, trucks, and four-wheelers lights to help save a kid.
Igiugig is a small, small village. There’s 69 people there, a number that elicits both high-fives and a stark realization of holy shit, that’s not a lot of people. The population is mostly Yup’ik Eskimos, Aleuts, and Athabascan Indians, and while the town doesn’t have a huge airport, they do have a small state-owned one, which got the attention of the whole village Friday night.
A Medvac flight sent from Kodiak to take a child in Igiugig for emergency medical care in Anchorage attempted to land around 11 p.m. at the airport but was unable to because there were no runway lights.
Igiugig resident Ida Nelson heard the plane circling overhead and knew something had to be up. She left her steam bath and, after attempting to get the runway lights on to no avail, started calling everyone she possibly could.
She made 32 calls, and roused people out of bed and into their cars, trucks, SUVs, four-wheelers—whatever they had with working headlights and sent everyone down to the airport, where they lined up on either side of the runway to make a usable set of working ersatz runway lights.
A local pilot was able to get to his plane and communicate with the LifeMed pilot via radio to let them know what was going on.
The LifeMed Alaska pilot took a picture, which was uploaded to the LifeMed Alaska Facebook page:
Alaska Public Media spoke to Nelson about the scramble to let the plane land:
Nelson said the weather was calm. The medevac pilot circled as she and others on the ground coordinated people by phone and radio. She said a lot of people got out of bed and were running around in their pajamas.
They staggered vehicles, facing east and running the whole length of the runway — lighting the pilot’s way.
“So he could be able to see end-to-end of the runway,” she said.
Then, they waited.
“I was anxious and nervous and I was like, ‘So what if that was my baby (waiting for that) plane,’” Nelson said.
As the pilot got ready to land, an on-call health aid told everyone to stay put when the plane touched down.
“And so, once she was able to get the patient on the plane, everybody still stayed in their positions and he was able to taxi out, taxi down the runway and take off,” Nelson said.
Thanks to the quick-acting, headlight-owning people of the village, the plane was able to land, the kid made it to Anchorage and is doing fine now. Alaska DOT fixed the lights this week, so hopefully, this sort of thing won’t happen again.
Look at all these people not being terrible at all! It’s a novel change to hear about something like this, right? The awesome power of people and headlights, coming together to save lives.